Wednesday, September 29, 2010

in pictures and words

About a week ago I got back from a two week long trip to Hong Kong and Beijing with my brother. Why Hong Kong and Beijing? My brother Matt served as a missionary in Hong Kong for two years. He's been meaning go back and visit for years now and I've always wanted to go with him. That and it was a good way of sticking it to all those people who travel to trendy places like Europe. JK but really.

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).

The process of flying to Hong Kong wasn't as bad as I anticipated. We flew from Phoenix to LAX, to Seoul, Korea, to Hong Kong. Korean Air is pretty nice; the seats weren't too small and there were plenty of movies to watch (so what if the movie I enjoyed most on the way over was Letters to Juliet). Anyway, on to the photos:

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.

Left: This looks like it could be a modern art exhibit, right? Believe it or not, it's the wall of a restaurant where had lunch called Modern Toilet. As you may have deduced, it's a toilet themed restaurant: the seats are padded toilets, the food is served in small toilet shaped bowls, and the ice cream resembles poop (which isn't as bad as it sounds). The food was OK.

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.

Sunday for church we attended the Mandarin Branch (the same folks we spent Saturday with). Before coming to Hong Kong, the branch president learned that Matt was coming to visit so he asked him to talk at church on Sunday.

That day we visited the Hong Kong Temple. It would've been cool to do a session there; maybe next time.

On Monday we flew up to Beijing. Rather than fly from Hong Kong, we crossed the border north of Hong Kong to Shenzhen and flew to Beijing from there -- it was $100 cheaper and it allowed us to see a part of China we wouldn't have otherwise experienced.

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).

This is just inside the Tiananmen Gate. The small arch in the bottom center leads to the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was impressive, it was just a bit repetitive. It's something that would be more fun with a big group, I think. And it was pretty crowded the day we went.

Private Eyes
Left: Forbidden City lion. Lions in China? Is there/was there such thing?

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.

The Great Wall of China. NBD. This was my favorite part of Beijing/mainland China. Climbing around was one of the best workouts I've had in a while. So steep.

my totem
Left: A Chinese Snickers (it has Chinese writing on the side, that's the biggest difference). American candy was my totem (Inception, anyone?) while I was over there. I had very few problems with the food we ate (other than, holy crap, I ate so much of it), but it's stuff like candy and Coke that gave me a sense of familiarity and anchored me to home.

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).

The next day, Thursday, we flew to Shenzhen and took a bus back to Hong Kong. Friday we went to Lantau Island (which I like to call Lando Island), a less populated part of Hong Kong. Lantau Island is home to Big Buddha (left), which used to be the largest outdoor Buddha in the world. We took a cable car to get there, which provided some great scenic views of Lando Island.

I'm not sure about the significance of the statue on the right but I thought it made a cool picture.

A view the from the platform where Big Buddha resides. I love gnarly trees.

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.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lunch me yet?

I'm in Asia right now. (Asia sounds cooler than Hong Kong even though Hong Kong is awesome all by itself.) So far, so great.

This picture has nothing to do with Hong Kong, per se... it's just that I had a few copies of it that I put in my journal a few months back and I've been leaving the copies in public places for people to stumble upon and (hopefully) enjoy. (Vain much?) I wrote the web address of my blog on the back so if you've come to my blog as a result of finding this photo, welcome.

Be back in AZ in a few days. Word.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hugo Reyes

So, Weezer has been streaming their new album Hurley on, A Place for Friends, for the past day or so. I checked it this morning. I have to say, I quite enjoyed the second track, "Ruling Me" (I'm listening to it right now). It's poppy and fun and has some 'oooohs' reminiscent of "Susanne". Anyway, in the midst of the song, I thought to myself, what if this album is awesome; what if I can hang with every track. Then I got to the unsavory fifth song, "Where's My Sex." If you thought "We Are All On Drugs" was bad, well, Weezer have really outdone themselves with this jam, but not in a good way.

It's funny how every Weezer album can manage to get my hopes up then dash them against the rocks. Every time. It's funny how I keep thinking that Weezer will come out with something that I'll love as much as the Blue Album or Pinkerton. Sigh.

I need to give this album a few more spins before I can say really if it's good or not (though I can tell you right now it's better than Raditude; and, by good I mean, will I love 9 out of 10 songs on this album (I've already identified one that I hate)).

I can say this, though: I feel like Weezer didn't take too much time on this album. It's not that they rushed through it, they just left it slightly unpolished. The guitars are a bit more rough and Rivers' voice seems a little flat at times -- it gives the album a raw edge, something Weezer fans haven't really heard since Pinkerton. I like it.

Hurley is out next Tuesday, 14 September. Incidentally, I'll be in Beijing next Tuesday. So who knows if I'll be able to actually buy it until I'm back in the U.S. and A. Perhaps I'll have an update for this album review then...

(Sorry if you thought this post was about LOST.)