3 Days in Hong Kong

We decided to stay 3 nights in Hong Kong at the end this trip. We haven’t been here together for a long time, and the airfare to return to Chicago was $100s less than other places in Asia. The sights of Hong Kong are some of the most unique in the world. The city is built on seemingly uninhabitable mountains and rock. The skyscrapers grow from the side of the mountains, and although the city center is steel and glass, 80% of Hong Kong is forest, mountains and beaches. It is a breathtaking place and you constantly walk around in awe. On top of all this, flights between Hong Kong and Chicago are among the cheapest of any Asian city. Those of you with a spare $500 for round-trip airfare and a week free are missing out on one of the world’s most unique places if you don’t come here.

Hong Kong hotels vary from elegant and expensive to simple and cheap. The key thing is location, location, location. And we want super clean! So eLog Inn at $45/night is perfect for us. Room is very small but the bed is comfy, room is spotless and the location can’t be beat. In the heart of Kowloon, at Jordan, near subway, buses and night markets. And it’s about 30 minutes from airport to the door!

Arrival day, temperature is in the low-70s (day) and high-60s (night). We went to the shopping mall just for kicks, saw Garrett’s Chicago popcorn and an ice skating rink. We went to the night market and dinner “on the street”. This means authentic chinese dishes and large bottles of beer brought to tables and stools set up on the street and in the alleys. We had an awesome stir-fried Udon pork noodles.

Our first full day , the weather turned to low-60s (day) and high-50s (night) with sometimes a light drizzle. We took subway/bus/boat to the members-only, swanky Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club at lunchtime. A bit of an issue with my “membership”  but that was solved easily with politeness and courtesy, and we had a drink looking over Repulse Bay. We then went to Stanley Market, which has been enhanced and modernized a bit in the last 30 years, but it still retains the same feel. The highlight of the day was the bus ride back. One of the most awesome ways to see Hong Kong is from the top deck of the #6 bus from Stanley Market to Central Hong Kong. It’s a 45 minute ride that winds through the mountains, along narrow roads, no guard rails, brushing tree branches as it goes. It’s unique and this alone is worth the time it takes to fly 16 hours to Hong Kong! The 1-minute video snippet is in the phot gallery. Rode the Star Ferry back to Kowloon …. 25c to cross the harbor.

At night, we went to La Taverna Restaurant. We came to Hong Kong on our honeymoon 30 years ago because it was cheaper and more interesting than Hawaii (which is still true!) and the one restaurant we remember was La Taverna. In the gallery is a “then and now” (30 years ago and now) picture at La Taverna. We finished up with beer at Ned Kelly’s Last Stand, a bar we also remember from 30 years ago.

Our last full day, we went to Shek O Beach. Shek O is a small village that is at the end of one of the steepest, mountainous roads in Hong Kong. Many people go hiking up and down huge inclines here. We walked through the narrow streets of the local village (video in first comment), visited the beach, and saw groups grilling in a tailgate-like area. Cool! Another scenic bus ride back to Shau Kei Wan and we visited the local fish market there. Live fish being prepared for the restaurants and dinner tables of the locals. (some pics and video are in the gallery.

In the evening, we had a very good Nepalese meal and a beer at one of the restaurants on Temple Street. Morning, 30-minute bus back to the airport for our flights out. A short visit to one of the world’s great cities … very nice.

Cambodia – February 2018

Our winter trip this year is to Camboda and Hong Kong. It takes 20 hours of flights from Chicago to Cambodia (13 hours to Tokyo then 6.5 hours to Cambodia). We stayed in Japan one night, then Cambodia 7 days, then Hong Kong 3 days, then back to Chicago (15 hours).

Here are some notes (and lots of pictures and video) about the Cambodia portion of the trip. I think I’m learning that people like to see pictures and video, and read less commentary, so here you go!

Chicago to Japan

It was a snowy day leaving Chicago. The flight to Tokyo (13 hours) was about 30% full, so we each got 3 seats to lie across.

Overnight stay in Narita, Japan on the way to Cambodia. Narita is a small(ish) town near the Tokyo airport, about 60 miles from central Tokyo. Dinner at a local yakatori last night followed by karaoke at the Cage. It is a bar frequented by airline personnel on overnight layover, so there is a good amount of alcohol consumed here every night.

Japan to Cambodia

Uneventful 6.5 hour morning flight from Narita to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, and settled into a hotel near the Mekong River and had a nice happy hour at FCC (Foreign Coorespondant’s Club) then a good Indian meal. Arranged a Lexus taxi to Otres (near Sihanoukville – 4 hours drive, but only 100 miles – to the south, lots of traffic, $50). A lot faster than the bus.  Here are a few pictures from the capital, Phnom Penh.

Good morning from Otres Village, Cambodia. The only two awake in Cambodia at 7:00am are a cat named Agent Orange and me!Nice Valentine’s Day/birthday yesterday, hung out by the beach and then had a delicious Fish Amok. Staying in a cute house behind Woody’s Pub, they were just building this when we were here 10 months ago.

Very productive day today. Walked up the beach this morning and hired a Hobie Cat sailboat. I sailed my wife across the shipping lanes (one fishing boat!), 6.8 miles, walked into the beach bar, bought 3 cold beers ($1 each) then walked back to the boat and sailed her back to where we started. The trip back took a little longer, because of wind direction, I should have bought more beer. All in all, a nice 4 hours.  Pictures and video

I planned to get a haircut before I left Chicago, but it didn’t get done. Now I need one, especially as it is 85° everyday here in Cambodia. There is a guy one minute walk down the street that cuts hair, here are some pictures of his clients that I took. D says go for it (easy to say, it’s not her hair). What do you all think? Should I “go for it? My guess is that it will cost about $1.50. Or should I wait two weeks and get it done in the Philippines with my regular guy.

In the afternoon, we went down to the beach and walked across an estuary (river flowing to the sea, waste-deep) and walked along a completely desolate beach. Trash on the shore is noticiable because it washes up from what is dumped in the sea and no one is there to pick it up. When the beach is developed in 10 years, that will change. 🙂  Here are some beach scene pictures.

 

We came in 4th out of 11 teams at “Quiz Night in Cambodia” at Woody’s last night. Not bad, as we were a team of 2 against a lot of other teams of 7, and we were not high. She knew what M.A.S.H. stood for, and we did well on the 70s songs and identifying the districts of Asian capitals, as well as the “beer” catagory. The Winter Olympics category did us in, as she finds the Winter Olympics mostly pointless and we’re not really following the news. The 3rd member of our team, a cat named “Agent Orange”, was useless.

Cat named Agent Orange. The other cats in the bar are names Mussolini and Adolph.

Finally, a few menu items and signs we’ve seen in town and on the beach in the last 5 days.

After 4 days in Otres Village, we moved about 2 hours east along the southern Cambodian coast to Kampot town. Did a river cruise with nice sunset over Bokor Mountain then a walk through town.

The lodge where we are in Kampot (Villa Vendichi) for 2 nights is along the river about 2 km north of the main town. More expensive ($45/night) than other places in town but the setting is really nice. 25 rooms, many surrounding a pool and also along the river and in the garden in back. The view of the river area can’t be beat. Boats, kayaks, and SUPs along the river. Staff is great. Here are some pictures of the river cruise and the hotel.

Our kayaking trip took us a mile or so up the river (against a small current) and stopped at a beautiful Buddhist temple along the river. The grounds looked abandoned, but the inside of the temple was immaculate. Then we paddled into the mangroves and found a place called Retro Guesthouse, run by a nice Swiss guy named Alex. We pulled the kayak up to the shore and had a great lunch. Had a dip in the pool after we returned and then had a nice dinner at our lodge while watching some videos on the tablet.

Here are some misc. pics in Kampot.

Next day, mid-afternoon, we returned to Phnom Penh via bus ($9 person for the 3 hours trip). Decided to try something different and safer. Checked into a room near the Phnom Penh airport as we have an early morning flight tomorrow to Hong Kong.

A few observations about Cambodia.

– It doesn’t have the “Wild West of Asia” feel that it used to. I guess that is what you get when the economy is good and the streets get paved.
– Westerners visiting or living there seem fairly laid back and friendly. It’s pretty relaxing there, so not much to get stressed about. A few folks smoking pot at bars, etc. Very willing to share.
– Beer is about the cheapest we’ve found in the world (Vietnam is similar). 25-50 cents happy hour, $1 max regular price. Almost every meal we had (both western and asian) was very good.
– We saw a guy walking down the street with one hand in the air, holding an IV bag over his head and the needle going into the other arm. No need to stay in the hospital when there is 25-cent beers for happy hour! I couldn’t get the camera out fast enough for a picture, sorry.
– For us, a vacation here is SO MUCH nicer than going to Hawaii or Florida. Great beaches, perfect weather, great food, we’re not surrounded by stressed-out people, the hassle of day-to-day life is far less than in the west, accomodation is better at 25% of the price you’d pay in the west, and the amount of money spent for food and drink is an afterthought because it is so cheap compared to the west. BUT … you gotta fly 22 hours to get here (but not really unpleasant in airplanes that are empty).

I’ll end this blog entry and get it posted now. We have 2.5 days in Hong Kong coming up, a place we haven’t explored together for many years.