The unique thing about Matt's mission was that he spoke Mandarin, instead of Cantonese which is the main language of Hong Kong. But this gives him an advantage outside of Hong Kong because more Chinese speakers speak Mandarin than Cantonese.
Anyway, rather than bore you with the details of what I thought was an incredible trip, I've posted photos (with captions in case you wanted to be bored by the details).
Left: I wish I could remember the name of this park. It had a few structures like this one and was across from a Buddhist (I think) temple.
Center: This water wheel was at the same park. I just decided that sometime in my life I'm gonna own property with a body of water that will power a functioning water wheel. And that water wheel will do something cool, like grind flour for a bakery that I will have someday.
Right: A Mong Kok market. This is what would come to mind when someone would say Hong Kong. This market is the place to go if you wanna buy a cheap rip-off. I'm kicking myself now for not getting that Ed Hardy t-shirt (JKBR).
We went to these places on our first full day in Hong Kong.
Right: The following day, Saturday, we took a ferry to Lamma Island with members of the Mandarin Branch where Matt served a big part of his mission. I loved this place. As we got off the boat, we walked through a row of outdoor seafood restaurants. This was a two-in-one experience because most of the seafood restaurants had small tanks filled with various sea creatures. Which was awesome because I love sea creatures, like the cuttlefish in this picture (click on the picture to enlarge); these guys were hanging out in front of the seafood restaurant we all ate at. Overall, I loved it -- the island, the food, the company -- I loved it.
That day we visited the Hong Kong Temple. It would've been cool to do a session there; maybe next time.
We landed in Beijing in the early afternoon and took a train, then the subway to our hotel. Subway fares in Beijing were ridiculously cheap (as is just about everything else if you went to the right place), only 2.00 Renmibi (RMB) per trip, which converts to about 30 cents.
It took us over an hour to find our hotel. In other words, we got lost. But we enjoyed it because it allowed us to explore a non-touristy part of Beijing. Eventually, we dropped our stuff off at the hotel and wandered south toward a dumpling restaurant recommended in Matt's travel guide. On our way we made a pit stop at a drum tower; we arrived just in time for this performance (left).
They next day before visiting the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, we stopped at a park to the southwest of the Forbidden City. Matt called it He-Man park because he thought it would've been the perfect place to play He-Man as a kid (I agree with him). The park had some pretty awesome architectural structures; I especially liked these beams (right).
Center: Private eyes are watching you, they see your every move. These light/camera poles were all over Tiananmen Square. It's stuff like this (and Facebook being blocked) that made me feel the tension of being in a communist country.
Right: These bikes were parked just outside the subway station by our hotel. It reminded me of Rexburg. Sigh.
Right: These guys were awesome, like a mix between empanadas and dumplings. The price was right too, four for 5 RMB (or about 75 cents US).
I'm not sure about the significance of the statue on the right but I thought it made a cool picture.
We spent the following day in Macau. I didn't bring my DSLR camera because I was sick of hauling it around (I know, it's not that bad, but you get a little sick of it hanging around your neck for 10 days straight). I took my Holga (cheap plastic film camera) but I have yet to get the film developed so no pictures from Macau to post at this time.
I loved it there though. Macau is similar to Hong Kong in that it's a former Portuguese colony (Hong Kong was a British colony). And since gambling is legal there it's known as the Las Vegas of Asia. Thankfully, though, it wasn't as smutty as Vegas, but maybe I just didn't notice because we didn't get too close to the casinos.
We took a ferry to Macau with three of Matt's friends from his mission and met up with even more people when we got there. It was one of my favorite days because: a.) it was fun to do something in a large group and b.) Macau is awesome. Signage and such there is in Chinese and Portuguese; the Portuguese influences gives it a quaint European feel.
Going with Matt was great because he knew so many people over there. When we were in Hong Kong we always had a place to sleep and more than we were able to eat (I swear, Monday before we left we had two dinners -- with the same family). China's got a lot going for it but its people are by far its biggest asset.