27 December 2008

yanghsuo, part one

travel is over and i'm back in america.

a few weeks ago, however, i was in china.  the people's republic, not hong kong, which, i learned, is a very different animal.

my trip started in shenzhen, just across the border from hong kong.  though i saw very little, it was immediately clear that shenzhen was a very different place --- darker, dirtier, colder.  not a place i wanted to stay for long.  thankfully, the sleeper bus arrived quickly.  

not that the bus was much of an upgrade.  for the next ten hours --- the rest of the night --- i laid in a cramped, uncomfortable bed.  on a bus.  careening through the south of china.  

and i do mean careening.  our driver had some very clever ideas about when to pass on the "highway" --- curves, especially, and also in the face of obviously oncoming traffic.  highway is a misnomer, as well.  more like dirt road.  dirt road under construction.  not that that stopped our driver from trying to set a time-to-distance record that evening.

though i traveled by night, i was able to catch a glimpse of the countryside.  beyond the open space, in stark contrast to hong kong, and the miles of empty buildings, i was most struck by the slave labor camps near the highway.  i imagine the workers were receiving some small amount of yuan for their work, but i say, call a spade a spade.  in the cold night, they slept only in tents made out of thin acyrilic material, no fires, surely little clothes.

we passed through a few towns, and i could only capture the feeling of the ride with pretentious, blurry photography.  while i tried to fall asleep on the bus, i tried to come up with a suitable simile for china.  china is like cellophane --- it has some of the qualities of beauty, like gloss, clarity, lightness, but the whole is much lesser than the parts.  in fact, the whole is pretty icky when you get up close and touch it.

when ryan and i arrived in yangshuo, we stumbled around in the darkness until we finally found a hostel at which to crash.  within five minutes, a gentlemen who purported to be the manager of the hostel knocked on our door to give us a few tips about the yangshuo.  a few minutes later, it became clear that the tips were a sorry attempt to net a few round-eyes into paying far too much for a guided tour of the area.  it took a lot longer to finally chase him out of our room.

welcome to china.

18 December 2008

rising sun

japan is incredible. i've been here for seven days now, and from the small pleasures of little thoughtful tricks, to the big surprises like partying with a local businessman at a dive bar, it's really been one hell of a trip.

11 December 2008

yangshuo, prolouge

i'm afraid i won't be able to post about this last weekend's trip to inside the people's republic of china until... a while.  here's a taste of yangshuo.  beyond it's touristy middle, i was able to get a taste of real, undistilled china.

i like hong kong much better.  china is a dirty, ruthless place.

05 December 2008


and then i bought these sneakers. for hiking?

sai kung paradise

last tuesday i went on an absolutely beautiful hike in hong kong's sai kung area, right on the coast of the south china sea. after a short 90 minute journey from my apartment, by subway, then bus, then taxi, i found myself in a remote, solitary paradise. most of the time, i couldn't hear a single human-produced sound: no boats, no planes, no motors, no alarms. it was stunning.

the hike started near a reservoir filled with crystal-clear blue water.

we hiked through bamboo forests. the air was clear enough, the light was bright enough, that this photo practically looks like HDR.

the highlight: an amazing beach, nestled between two mountain ridges. massive waves rolling ashore. clean air and sand, and not another soul, save ryan, my comrade.

we had another very, very steep hike on the trail, up 1200ft... a never ending staircase.

the view, however, was more than worth it.

far, far more than worth it.


going down the other side of the mountain, we could see sharp peak in the distance. apt name.

unfortunately, the sun started to go down and we had to cut our hike a little short.

we tried to scuttle back via another trail, but the sun started to get dangerously, if not beautifully, low. then, we took a wrong turn and ended dropping down the mountain on a steep, overgrown trail. soon, the trail led to small, suspicious dam, and we turned around, afraid that snakes or vc might be lurking the trees.

really great hike. after returning from my two major excursions --- mainland china, beginning tomorrow, and then japan --- i plan to finish it before returning to america.

i will miss it here.

26 November 2008

sushi, frustration

US$7 buys you this much sushi in hong kong.  small consolation, as things are not looking good for next week's trip to thailand.  i've never had a trip cancelled because of political unrest before...

25 November 2008

preserved egg

i ate this local specialty, the "preserved egg," a few days ago.  that is an actual egg.  wikipedia has a detailed article that explains how they're made.  i think the photo is disgusting enough.  and, for the record, it wasn't that bad!

"he's gone to sell preserved eggs" is the equivalent of "he's sold the farm"

21 November 2008

only in hong kong

i've been trying to get a picture of this for months now.

in hong kong, even the delivery trucks sport gawdy, unpainted front fascias.  riced.  out.


it's high time i posted some pictures of my school.

hong kong polytechnic is a school about the size of the university of michigan, around 25,000 students.  the space it occupies is, of course, far, far smaller.  furthermore, if i had only one word to describe hkpu, it would be brick.  unrelenting, oversaturated brick.

brick, everywhere.  architect zaha hadid has designed a new building for hkpu --- for the design department, no less --- slated to be finished 2011.  it is not brick, mercifully.  it is, however, unfortunately, zaha hadid

here's the front.

the polytechnic logo.  how darling.

and finally, the most recently built building on campus, the tower.

17 November 2008

lantau, part ii

i did not hesitate to return to conquer lantau island.  it was an excellent, outdoors day.  after getting an earlier start on the day (umm, 11am), ryan and i took the train, then a bus, to the base of the tallest hill/mountain/summit/peak on lantau, lantau peak, appropriately enough.  time to do my best sir edmund hillary.

this was the view when we started on what was an innocent enough nature trail.  my camera doesn't really capture the size of these ridges, or my perspective.  what we saw was a ridge, with a taller ridge behind it, with a taller ridge behind it, lantau peak.  we were in for a hike.

this is how we hiked up --- massive stone steps.  at many points during the ascent, we were climbing up at 45 degrees.  looking forward, all i saw was mountain.  each step took a giant, leg bent at 90 degree lift.  and i'll be damned if i can figure out just how they built this trail, other than forcing laborers to carry really heavy stones, really far, far up.

the views were incredible, especially near the top of the peak.  i could see the whole island, especially, many dramatic cliffs and mountains.

finally, after about two hours of climbing, we made it to the summit.  looking back... and out.  it was a hazy day, so our views from the peak were limited mostly to silhouettes.

there's my proof.  934 meters.  and we started from only a few hundred feet above sea level.  climbed with the best shoes i have here --- my sandals.  i was disappointed that we did not encounter a kung fu master at the peak.
the hike down the other face of the peak was even more dramatic --- a constant drop without any breaks, practically jumping down from rock to rock, steep drops on each side.  

yes, virginia, all the way up there.

at the end of the trail we ran across two great sights.  the first was this stonehenge-like monument to the heart sutra.  the posts as 40-foot tall halved logs with chinese characters engraved in the side.  very cool stuff.

then, finally, we finished with a trip to the tian tan buddha, the tallest seated outdoor bhudda in all of asia, almost 100 feet tall and 250 tonnes in weight.  badass.  if only it were 1000 years old, not 15... after destroying our legs climbing, ryan and i took the fabled lantau cable car back down to the train to return home, which also offered some great views.  

a very solid trip.  and as soon as we got back, we finally bought our tickets for thailand and japan.  so.  so.  excited.

15 November 2008

lantau, part i

at long last, i finally made it to lantau island, along with a couple goofball german friends of ours, which is to say, some great friends.  we went too late and got a little lost, which is all the more reason to go back.  

for instance, next time, i'll climb this hill/mountain

the beach we visited was a little... dirty.  maybe it's pollution, maybe it's sediment. 

here i used my sunglasses as a photo filter.  i'm awesome.

14 November 2008

hong kong colors

i might miss the colors at night, most of all. 

10 November 2008

trip to stanley

visited the southern side of hong kong island this weekend --- stanley village.  within 45 minutes, i went from the middle of downtown hong kong to a quiet little (tourist) village by way of one public bus.  pretty incredible.  it was nice to get out of the city, get some fresh air, see some beautiful views!  and then, after a couple hours, back on the bus and to hong kong, once again.

one huge city, right behind them thar hills.  unbelievable.

07 November 2008

my apartment, part iv

finally, the master bedroom.  i've posted the lovely view in an earlier post.  this, this is my magnificent, rock-hard, too-short matress.  either i sleep diagonally, fetally, or, well... you get the picture.

i do, at least, have a... shelf?  and one drawer?  also a decent closet which i haven't pictured.  and, in all honestly, it's plenty of apartment for me, and ryan.  we haven't gone completely off the reservation --- well, not completely, and not yet.  and it is in hong kong.  

i will, however, probably shed a tear when i sleep in a real bed on christmas eve.  

my apartment, part iii

mercifully, the bathroom is larger than the kitchen.  a little, anyway.

again, a very small sink.  no counter space.  the landlord saw fit to fix a crack with scotch tape.  and because i couldn't get a good angle on the bathroom to show this --- the sink is inside the shower.  there's no room for it anywhere else.

if you look closely, you can see my reflection in the tile --- that's where my eye level is.  you can see that the mirror doesn't quite --- doesn't at all --- show my face when i stand at full height.  i am at least a foot taller than most hong kongers.

this little thing, which an american might mistake for a garbage can, is actually a washing machine.  you can fit a pair of jeans and maybe a few shirts, if you're lucky, before overloading it.  and again --- yes, the opening is the size of my not-oversized palms.