Thursday, October 28, 2010

Are We Having Fun Yet?

I can't say this has been the easiest of weeks we've had  so far.  Both of us have been fighting health issues and have gotten to know Evangle Hospital quit well. My back, hip and leg has been very painful, but l found a good chiropractor trained in Canada and am also taking physio at the hospital.   I must say that I've been impressed with the health care we've received and people have been very kind and patient with our lack of understanding the language.  Most of the staff there speak some English and all the doctors are fluent in English, which is certainly a comfort.  The only problem with going there is that it is a private hospital.  If we ever had to be admitted, we'd have to go to one of the public ones because the private would certainly be too expensive.
Dragon in the Zodiac Garden

The school has a three day holiday this week, and since Blaine didn't go on Monday and is only going half day today it will really be a short week.  I think we'll be the only teachers left in Hong Kong as it is a very popular time for them to travel around to other countries.  The fares are cheaper and less crowded as it is not a national holiday.  Ryan and his family are off  to a resort in Thailand , and Kylie and crew are going to Cebu in the Philippines. They were happy the typhoon went through before they left for their holiday.  We were invited to go with them both, but Blaine thought it would be too much right now and as it turns out we wouldn't have been able to go.  Today is Tues. so we will see if we get to do any sightseeing here at home.

Not sure which way to go.

Heading into the park the back way

Well today its Wed and the first day of our holiday.  We were pretty laid back this morning and then decided to venture out for a while and see how we manage.  We went to Kowloon Walled City Park which is not to far away.  It is a real oasis of beautiful landscaping, neat Chinese buildings and you can even hear and see many birds.  The park is enclosed with a brick wall that was once the perimeter of a notorious village that actually remained a part of China throughout British rule.  It was known for its vice, prostitution, gambling and even illegal dentists!!  In one of the videos we watched, the lady was telling how there was no running water and they had to go to a well and haul the water up eleven flights of  stairs.  Because of the factories that were in the City, the water would turn color depending on what pollutants came from  them. In 1984 the Hong Kong government  took over the area and rehoused the residents and tore everything down and built the park. It was opened in 1995.  Outside the  walled area there is a jogging track, cycling track, and basketball courts.
This is the almshouse which is the only remaining old building of the Kowloon Walled City.  The facade has been restored to its original appearance in the Qing Dynasty.
Old South Gate.  The wall (which was 15 feet high) enclosing the Walled City was built by the Qing Government in 1841. During the Japanese Occupation between 1941 and 1945, it was torn down by Japanese soldiers to provide materials for laying the foundation of the Kai Tak Airfield( which is right out our window).  This is all that is left of the foundation of the South Gate.

Garden of Four Seasons .  I'm not sure what the shaped thing in the corner is supposed to be!!

Queen for a minute!!  I don't think you're supposed to sit in these, as the guard was heading our way!

One of the lovely ponds and waterfall.
Today l had  a chiropractors apt. so we  hopped in a taxi and headed to TST, which turned out to be a looooooong drive!  The traffic was horrendous, partially due to an accident  and finally the driver suggested he'd take another route and drop us off about 11/2 block from my apt. and we gladly agreed as the price was climbing through the roof.  When l was done we wandered around looking at suit tailors because Blaine wants to get a suit made sometime.  They have beautiful cloth and to have a suit, shirt and tie made cost about $260 Can.  We than decided to go for supper at the Spaghetti House.
All l can say about that is that the Cokes were good!

If you want spaghetti go somewhere else for it!!

Looking out from restaurant to the big Adidas store where you can get your own custom  running shoes made.

Haagen Dazs ice cream is very big here.  Kind of expensive but good.  After supper we wandered down to the Star ferry terminal.  It was very busy, but we decided we'd try taking the 5C bus home.  It cost $10.00 for both of us ($1.42 Canadian) as opposed to the taxi which cost $76.50 ($11.00 Can.)  Both are cheap when you put it into Canadian dollars.  On Sat. is Blaine's birthday (60) so we will probably go out for lunch, (somewhere we know is good) and that will be the end of our holiday.  There's no trick or treating here so it will be a different Halloween.  In the end we did have some fun.  Hope you have a good week and the weather warms up.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Walk to the Park

Blaine found a park a few blocks away, that he goes for his walk in on the weekends.  He finds that the walk back and forth to school each day plus the stairs are enough of a workout during the week, so come along for a walk to the park.

He starts here in our building on the ground floor parking lot.  Go to the far end, turn left past two more towers and you're outside.
This is how they build here.  The long bamboo poles are tied together with leather strips and a green material is put over top.  The high rises are done the same way.  Imagine being that high up with bamboo scaffolding!

Once you cross the street out of our place you can take this alley way short cut.  Not the prettiest but safe even at night and faster.  The building they are working on is the Park n Shop we go to for groceries.
Down the street past the flower shop.  Cut flowers don't last too long here but they have some pretty ones, and are very cheap.

You see motorcycles everywhere.  They are allowed to go in and out of traffic, between cars and buses whenever they like.  Don't know why you don't see them splattered all over the place. Hope the boys never get one here.
Bridge crossing the highway.

Looking from the bridge into the Kai Tac Tunnel . Sky Tower is the big one at the back.

Looking from the bridge into the park.

Entrance to the park.  We live in the To Kwa Wan area in the district of Kowloon. There are three district in Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and New Territories.

Walking path around the basketball courts.

Blaine says there are some intense basketball games always going on.
Not many sitting in the bleachers!  Sky Tower is in the background.  We live in the one farthest to the right.   As you can see it is an L shape and the courtyard and swimming pool is in the center.  Even though we are in tower 7 there are really only 6 as the number four is unlucky.

Other side of the walking path.

There are a lot of sport centers here because no one has their own yard or grass like at home.  Essentially you sleep in your home and do most things out, like recreation, eating out, visiting at restaurants, because you just don't have the space in your house.
This is a bunch of  people doing Tai Chi, which is very popular with the older set.  It was a video but it won't play on this blog.  They play Chinese music to move to.  Kind of neat.  There are some who do it in our courtyard every morning.  Might have to join them!! Wouldn't that be some sight!

Other side of the track.

This was another video of some ladies playing badminton.  Mostly just hitting back an forth.  Quit often we see kids playing in the courtyard and there is an actual badminton court in the amenities building.
You see these cleaning people every where.  If you are on welfare here you work every day doing street clean up and live in awful looking buildings (at least from the outside) can't imagine that the inside would be too great.  Buildings here tend to look weathered and worn relatively fast.  I don't know if its because of the pollution or weather, but the old ones really look sad.

 Heading home across the bridge.

Start of our outdoor market.

Across the corner from the previous pic is the meat market. Pork chop anyone?
The rest of the market where they are just setting up for the day.  There are little shops behind these stalls.

The smaller building is a hotel which was finished last year.  Sky Tower is behind it.  They are supposed to have a good western type restaurant in it.  Might have to go sometime.

Turn left at the hotel and you have a street of car and glass shops.  John K could set up shop here!!  Not open at this time of day.  Everything but the markets open late and stay late.

Home sweet Home.  One of the other teachers was over for supper the other night, and he was standing on the balcony and commented about us almost being on the ground floor.  His place is on the 55th floor!  Seeing that we have a super typhoon coming straight for us right now, l think l'm happy to be a bit lower to the ground!!  The winds have been picking up since Tuesday.  Since l wrote this the typhoon has turned north and so far we have only gotten to a T3 stage which is mostly wind and probably rain today.  Dr. Wong my chiropractor was hoping for a T8 when everything is shut down.  He says in HK a typhoon is a time for a party and only the restaurants stay open and people  visit or go out to eat at local places, as there is no transportation running.  Most of the typhoons here are not the devastating kinds the outer islands get so l guess Kylie was not the only one hoping for a T8 and wanting a day off!  Hope you have a good week of nice fall weather.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Taxis, Buses, Trains and Boats

For those of you who live in major cities, negotiating the different transit systems wouldn't be anything out of the ordinary, but for me it is a bit on the scary side.  There are three major ways of getting around Hong Kong if you don't own a car.  You always have to walk part of the way, either to get out of your building, ( in our case about a block), or to the bus stop, or to a MTR or KCR station.  Quit often you need to take one or two of a couple of combinations.  If you're feeling rich you can take a taxi all the way which l love, but the price is definitely cheaper on the bus or train.
Thanks to Jocelyn for getting some pics for me as l'm not
very mobile right now.
There are around 18,000 taxis here so they are relatively easy to flag down except of course when its raining, or like today.  There are red ones and green ones.  The red ones go mostly around Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island.  The green ones only go to the New Territories and are not allowed to pick up passengers in Kowloon or on Hong Kong Island.    If you want to put stuff in the trunk you pay an extra $5.(they sometimes don't ask for it)  If your taxi has to go through one of the major tunnels you have to pay the toll also.  The licence plate will tell you if it will take 4 or 5 passengers.  I have found that lots of the drivers don't know the English words for the malls so if you don't know the Chinese name tell them to go to the MTR station, if one is attached to the mall.  For example lots won't know Festival Walk (even though that's the name on the outside)   but will know Kowloon Tong MTR so that will get you there. Last Sat. when we were going out to the Gold Coast we got in the taxi and both of us realized we had never gone out to the Gold Coast only came back from it, and wouldn't you know it the driver didn't know where we wanted to go. We tried a few different names for the area and he said OK and off we went.  Anyway we weren't too sure he really knew so l phoned Ryan and he talked to the driver and got him on the right road and we made it fine.  Later one of the teachers, who also came for supper, and speaks Cantonese, got the desk guy in Ryan's tower to write it out in Chinese for us along with the desk phone number so now we're set for there.  You feel so helpless when you can't communicate and they also feel bad.  He kept apologizing all the way out there but neither one of us knew what the other was saying except of the word sorry!!  I need to learn to say left, right and straight ahead in Chinese, not that l always know exactly where we are or where we should be! Today Jocelyn went with me to find the chiropractors office and when we were done it was around 4 pm.  Anyway here we were, her with a baby and me that could barely walk, and do you think we could get a taxi? No Way!  We finally had to find a bus and that's another long story, but we made it home eventually.
Heading home from the chiropractors 

I went for my first train excursion this week.  Some of the ladies from the church invited me to go with them out to Sai Kung to visit a plant nursery, but l had to get to Festival Walk and take a train to Tai Po and then meet one of the woman at Starbucks in the station, where we would meet the other woman and go in their car.  Do you see how nothing is simple here. Thanks goodness Jocelyn came with me!  I could have taken a taxi all the way to Tai Po but it would have cost almost $200 HK.  I actually kind of enjoy the trains but the stations are confusing until you've done it some.  You need to know which direction you want to go and make sure you're not going in the opposite way and when the station is an interchange one there are many ways to go!!  The KCR is the Kowloon-Canton Railway and has two lines.  I think this is the one we took out to Ryan's when he lived in the New Territories. They are fairly cheap and fast, but you'd better get on and off fast to or you'll be left behind!  The MTR Mass Transit Railway is the the underground and costs more than the KCR.  The octopus card is the best thing to use for the transit systems.  When you pass through the turnstile, the card is encoded with the station identification and time.  At the other end, the exit turnstile  reads where you came from, the time you bought the ticket and how much you paid.  If you don't have enough $ on your card it will let you through and then you have to go to the counter to make up the difference.  You use your Octopus card for lots of things like buses, trains, ferry, pop, food, some restaurants.The other day l was buying groceries and l didn't have the correct change, so l paid the large portion with cash and the rest with Octopus.(at the clerks suggestion)  You just plunk your wallet or purse on the pad and it reads it and tells you how much $ is left on the card.  I have a key chain on my purse, and you can get them in watches too.

 TST to catch the Star Ferry over to the island.

There are about a million buses here.  Most of the big ones are double decker's, and how they wheel them around some of the tight traffic and narrow winding roads is amazing to see.  It's fun to sit up top right at the front, especially on the narrow mountain roads.  The other day Jocelyn and l took one to the ferry terminal to go over to the island, and it was really packed at 8:30 in the morning.  It's cheaper than a taxi, and if you're bored you can watch the tv screens  they have.  Not much on them though.  The buses going to the airport have luggage racks in them so that is convenient.  Then there are the mini buses.  They are interesting to ride in.  They only take 16 people and if there are two of you wanting on and there is only one seat left you are out of luck.  There are two types.  Red and Green again.  Red buses have no bells to ring when you want to get off so you have to tell him when, and of course they don't speak English!!  You need to yell Lay-do m-goi. (here please) They have no designated stops and you flag them down wherever. I haven't taken a red bus yet because its pretty Chinese and the fare is sort of iffy and can change if its raining.  The green ones are more stable and have designated routes and stops.  You can also use your octopus card or change but it has to be the correct amount.
Star Ferry - neat old boats!
Coming from HK Island to Kowloon side
Then there are the ferries.  I love the ferries. There are ferries going in every direction here, but the Star Ferry is the most well known.  It used to be the only way of getting across to the island before the tunnels were built.  I can't imagine the amount of people who used to ride these.  They are  wooden with diesel engines and really neat to ride in and the views going across the water with all the ships and boats are really wonderful.  At night the lights from all the magnificent buildings is really amazing, especially going from Kowloon to Central.  Sometimes just getting into your car and going to the Co-op is so much easier but I wouldn't have wanted to miss this, as intimidating as it seems sometime.
Rachel came to visit for a few hours while Jocelyn subbed.  She was helping me do the laundry and had a great time putting all the shoes  in the basket.  She has a sticker on the side of her face.  Trust you will all have safe trips
as you travel, in whatever form it takes.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Shop Till You Drop Malls

Shopping in Hong Kong is always an adventure, sometimes good and sometimes too much of a good thing.  Most of the ones we've been at so far are quit amazing, big and interesting to see but really don't always have what you want.  There are always lots of woman's shop, with very tiny clothes, lots and lots of brand name skin care products, like Lancome, Body Shop and a few department type stores.  They all have about a million restaurants in them also.  Most of the really tall ones have express escalators that go up two or three floors and they all come in various shapes or odd configurations of the buildings.  Some are very Chinese with everything written in Chinese and food courts have mostly Chinese foods.  These ones tend to have lots of little shops, and they will be there one day and gone the next.  The rule of thumb here is if you find something you like, buy it, because you may never see it there again.
Mega Box is my favorite because it is quit close and has 3 department type stores and I also find it easier to understand what I'm doing, as it seems more Western.  Ikea is in that one.  It's ten stories and has an ice rink.
The big orange box is the Mega Box Mall.  This is the view
out the window in our computer room
Festival Walk is another more Western one.  It has a Marks and Spencer which is an English store.  It also has a Toys R Us, which Rachel loves to visit.  It has a good variety of shops and a huge book store with English books, so that is nice.  They also have a grocery store called Taste which l go to at least once a week because of all the western things you can get.  Meat is an expensive thing to buy if you want beef especially.  Most of it comes from Australia or Brazil.  I found corned beef at the deli there.  It's $200.00 HK a pound. so that is about $28 Can. a pound.  I usually get 1/2 lb. for $14 Can. so it's fairly pricey but sure is nice to have something other than pork and chicken.  Today Blaine and l took the green bus to Taste with our little cart and loaded up.  Next time we'll take a taxi home!!  The bus only cost 60 cents one way compared to the taxi which is $40 but l really hate walking and carrying groceries.
Thursday night Ryan, Jill Blaine and I went to the Dragon Mall to look around and get Massages. This mall is all Chinese, is circular inside and has an ice rink, and floating roller coaster on the top floor. Most of the shops are very small and fan out from the middle.  The middle is open from bottom to top with the elevators in the middle.  There are about 10 different massage places on this one floor and you walk in and choose what you want done.  neck and shoulders, feet and legs, head, or full .  It seems like more of a social event for people.  The one the kids and I went to had four comfy chairs in one room with lady's sitting on stools doing every ones feet!!  They were all very friendly and when l miraculously found a shirt and two vests that fit me in the store next door they were all very excited along with me.  Patty if you ever want to set up shop in Hong Kong l know just the place for you!! There are massage parlors practically on every street, but some are rather iffy and do massages in the front with more of what you don't want to know about in the back.  We went to the food court after and had some pretty good food even though we weren't sure what most of the places had to offer.  As usual there were some very strange looking concoctions.
Looking down from top floor of Dragon mall
Food Court - this  is one side of it
Waffles with cream was about the only thing we recognized!!
Jill and Blaine checking on the roller coaster. Don't think l'll ride.
Weird chicken wing!!
Rachel loves eating french fries too!

Wandering around Mong Kok.  Sometimes it seems
very unreal to be here!!

On Sat. Kylie, Jocelyn, Rachel and us went to Mong Kok.  It's supposed to be the most densely populated area on earth, and l think most of them were out that day!  Kylie had seen a hot dog place he wanted to visit and Jocelyn had her eye on a French fry place. We agreed the french fries were quicker and better at the hot dog place.  I think we'd go there again.  The one kind of funny thing they had was a chicken wing stuffed with two cocktail sausages.  Wing was tasty but l wasn't too crazy about the sausages.  Later they took us over to the Langham Place Mall, which is part of a Hotel.  As you can see from the pictures it is quit the mall.  It's full of very interesting restaurants, and shops.  The view from the top floor is amazing and stomach dropping, if you don't like heights. There are two express escalators and l think they go up 3 or 4 floors each.  The elevator in the hotel is one of those all glass ones.

Heading up one of the express escalators.

Looking down, way down!!
That tv down there is like a jumbotron, but it doesn't look that large from up above.

 We didn't have time to really look at the stores in either the Dragon or the Langham so we'll have go back one day and poke around.  This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to malls here.  The shopping is endless and varied.  At Christmas time the malls and the whole city goes nuts over decorating and there's everything you can imagine to see.  We'll be going out to the Gold Coast for a Thanksgiving pot luck dinner and games night at Ryan and Jill's, along with a few of the other teachers.  There is no holiday for thanksgiving here so back to work on Monday, but you can get butterball turkeys so we are looking forward to good eats and a fun time.  Happy Thanksgiving to you all. We are truly thankful for Gods provisions and goodness to us, and grateful that He see us and knows our needs even when on the other side of the world!