We left around 9AM and went to Piazza del Duomo; one of the popular tourist attractions. The inside wasn’t anything too special but we truly came for the Tower terrace which was 7 euros to climb up stairs. So beautiful and it wasn’t too busy when we were heading up. So much detail put into this cathedral but the top the view is spectacular at least the side of it as the other side was under construction. When we got down, the line was much larger than when we arrived.
Beside the Duomo is a very high-end mall called Vittorio Emmanuele II that looked spectacular. We just kept walking around into a pedestrian only zone trying to find this calzone place Aaron’s friend had recommended but no luck. We ended up on Via Alla Porta / Via Magenta area and had lunch at Osteria al 29 Pizzeria (Corso Magenta, 29, 20123 Milano). I got a coke and gnocchi Stran-something for 7 Euro – 16.50 euros in total. We wanted to walk to Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio which is right beside a Catholic university. We ended up touring the university and it’s courtyard. We couldn’t find a way out of the church instead made it into the churches courtyard to find it was closed. We continued to walk to San Lorenzo. We continued walking down this one street which led us to the border of Chinatown and Navigli (area with canals). The Navigli area was under construction for the world expo and the other part had low water. There were little booths like the swap meet in Hawaii or the night markets back home.
For dinner, we wanted to goto Giacomo which was 30-40 minutes away but was a little too pricey for our budget. We looked for other options and decided on Da Oscar which was at Porta Venezia station on the S1 line. We walked there only to be told that their night was fully booked so we sauntered over to Osteria Luna Piena (Via Lazzaro Palazzi, 9, 20124 Milano) owned by Pepperino – a movie director turned chef. The food was good but service took forever. We got a prosciutto dish to start and Aaron, Ricky and myself all got the troccolli alla marinara con tagliatta di seppioline de gambero – cuttlefish and shrimp pasta and I got this weird chocolate and ammaretto shot – mandorlino which was too chocolatey for me. 20.50 Euro. Very slow service even with a bell to get their attentions.
From there, we hopped back on the train line to Garibaldi and walked to Il Massimo del gelato in Chinatown area (Via Lodovico Castelvetro, 18, 20154 Milano MI, Italy) for the best gelato town according to the internet. 5.60 Euro for two cones with two flavors. I got cachi – they said it was Italy’s national fruit (similar to persimmons) something which tastes like a tropical fruit i can’t put my finger on. We walked 21KM this day. It’s been a constant 12 degrees celsius for majority of the time we’ve been here.
We flew with Peach Aviation and the flight took 3-4 hours and a bit to arrive in Osaka. It cost less than $1300CAD for 3 people. Osaka recently had a typhoon so flights had been delayed days before but luckily it had passed over. The weather was nice with an average of 24 degrees unlike Hong Kong’s 28 degrees + humidity. Coming through customs we had to get our index fingers scanned and a photo taken. Since we arrived so early and were so close to Rinku Outlets, we decided to kill a few hours and head from Kansai Airport to Rinku Outlets. We arrived to Rinku town and put our luggage into the lockers (500¥). Once we walked out of the station towards Rinku, we saw a few broken umbrellas and bicycles/Vespa’s knocked down due to the recent typhoon which we missed by a day or two. We arrived really early (8AM) and nothing was open so we took over their benches waiting for Mcdonalds to open. Once again we had Mcdonalds but this time in Japan. They had a breakfast burger but fries instead of hashbrowns. They have a nifty hand wash station and they separate their garbage and liquids. We were all so hungry and tired since the flight was in the middle of the night not making for a comfortable sleep. The subway lines are extensive here but I think we’ll get the hang of it. It cost us 350¥ to get from Kansai to Rinku and cost us 970¥ to get from Tennoji to Fukushima station where our hostel J-Hoppers is located.
Rinku outlet didn’t really have great deals I must say especially against the Canadian conversion rate. It was the perfect temperature however the fluctuating weather patterns of raining, cold to hot weather were caused by the typhoon that just hit. High of 27 low of 15 for the days we were here. They don’t rely on AC very much and if there is, it’s very low. The seats on the train can flip, as in the back piece can get moved so u can have them facing one another so its a bunch of 4 or switch it so its 2 and 2. For some stops, you have a button to press to open the door. At Tennoji, the voice over the PA system told us to get off to transfer however we shouldn’t have gotten off. We needed to stick to a line that went the Osaka loop so we had to wait for the next bus which took 10-15 minutes. Once we finally arrived at Fukushima station, we just followed the instructions to get to J-Hoppers by following a coloured brick road which also connects in Shotan mall. This is a pedestrians only street (including bicycles).
Arriving at J-hoppers, we were greeted by Mr Yano, Kyohei and Keiko. Our room was on the 5th floor (top floor with rooftop access up one level) but no elevator and narrow stairs but we got here in one peace. We booked a triple bed room so a bunk bed and a single bed. The rooftop is a nice place to relax but I wish it was higher. This culture and environment is much more to my liking. It’s a busy city but calm at the same time especially compared to Hong Kong. The street our hostel was on had loads of little shops for food but we don’t know how to read Japanese so I guess we missed out on some good eats. We went to Yoshinoya for dinner but first we had to get in. To get in you press the little red square on the door and they will slide open – a good note to know if you don’t see any handles on the doors. The currency here has tons of coins and its weird to pay for our meal in only coins. After dinner, we walked through Fukushima street which was so pretty and tons of locals biking home from work. We went to the local grocery store to grab some drinks and cereal for breakfast. Spent some time on the rooftop before sleeping.
Georgina was born in Hong Kong and had to goto the Post Office to collect her Hong Kong Citizenship cheque. After she collected her cheque, we headed to Victoria Peak. Took the 7A bus then the subway to Admiralty then took a taxi (20HKD) to the peak tram. It cost 40HKD with return to go up the peak. We met our first Canadians on the tram going up. They have been travelling since the beginning of the month and they were in Tibet and China previously before coming to Hong Kong. The tram travels at 45 degrees and takes about 10 minutes and at the very top there is a whole new little town. The people who live up on the peak pretty much are the rich people. Hong Kong runs on escalators galore. The mall at the top has a 5 floors plus another galleria across from it. We decided to walk around the peak and take the main path about 2800M.
It was such a beautiful day to walk the path and luckily there was no smog (barely any) so we could see everything. My goal today was to recreate a photo of my mother on the peak as a teen. The heat kept the bugs away but there was no breeze so the the humidity was strong. Since the land tax is so high, there were multiple properties that have been abandoned. After our walk of the peak we were famished and decided to eat at the top floor of the Peak Plaza at Bubba Gump Shrimp. Fish n chips – can’t go wrong!
We decided to taxi and subway over to Tsim Sha Tsui (zeem sha chuy). The subway station is so long that you can much walk 3-4 blocks underground where you have sections with the moovators that the airports. Tsim Sha Tsui has a large community of South Asians. Our original plan was to take the Star ferry night ride but once we past the HK Museum of art it opened up into the pier/boardwalk and I have to tell you, it was breath-taking. It was one of those moments you just stood and had to take it all in. It’s as beautiful as the postcards. We found a street of food and grabbed food at a curry house. I had the Karikake soba noodle combo – light and nice with a hokkaido pudding to end it off. The bus line for the 72 was enormous but surprisingly that line moved quickly. For each bus, there is a queue where you line up behind and for the most part, it’s organized.
We dropped off our laundry at Jackson – 38HKD for our load which is priced by weight. They returned it all ironed and folded in a plastic bag.
I wanted to go to Shek-O as that was my father’s old hangout as a teen however it was too far out and unfortunately I wasn’t abel to recreate a photo there. We made our way to Stanley instead.
The 73 bus took us all the way to Stanley Centre Rd where Stanley Market is located. The area is slopy and has a windy one-laned roads. It took a decent amount of time to travel the distance. There are a few country clubs and beach houses roadside but also some shack-like residences. The terrain and environment in this area has lush greenery and they also have grass (which is sparse or for the wealthy who can afford it). Stanley is the european area of the island and has a rich history apparently.
Stanley Market is a very constricted area with little shops lined up one by one. There are tons of expats that live in this area. We ended up walking to the Stanley Pier and it was once again one of those breathtaking moments. You get the market in the background with local residence intertwined then a boardwalk with tiny shops and a soccer field. We never made it to the beaches because we were too busy climbing rocks. Unfortunately the sunset was cut short as the cloud coverage rolled in quickly.
We ate at Stanley Restaurant and had Pineapple fried rice with chicken, cashews and veggies. Hopped on the 67 bus and to Times Square. Times square is like Toronto’s Eatons centre but is 7 floors tall.
I am a Chinese born Canadian (CBC) however if someone speaks to me in Cantonese, I for the most part understand but will respond in English because my canto is really bad and very Canadian-ized. Being in Hong Kong however has improved my listening and understanding skills however conversing-wise, nothing. Luckily Georgina is fluent. It is ridiculously expensive to live in Hong Kong especially for the size of the property. There was a story in particular that showed a family of 4 living in a 100 square meter apartment and they make 2100HKD/month which isn’t even that much to live off of. That’s 300CAD/month.
We flew with Air Canada 14.5 hours direct to Hong Kong – very smooth.
Landed in Hong Kong and had to walk a distance to get to customs. The airport is it’s own island as Hong Kong acts as a giant hub for transfers. Once we cleared customs we purchased a sim card and a octopus card. Octopus card is a tap card you can refill and use for buses and convenience stores – It is very important to have one of these cards. $39HKD for the card with $10HKD already on the card.
We stayed at Caritas Oswald Cheung International House (rm2105) in Aberdeen for the week. We got a room with triple beds. We took the bus (A10) from the airport all the way to Tin Wan street (about an hour ride). It is humid outside however, in Hong Kong, they blast AC everywhere indoors (including the bus) – you can’t win. When we arrived at our hotel, our glasses fogged as we left the bus. We went to reception and they heard us speaking english so they started to converse with us in english and unknowingly, they spoke with a British accent. Hong Kong was once under British rule thus British schooling. After checking in, we passed out until dinner time. We joined Georgina’s parents for dinner at a small restaurant down the street. The rain started to come down really hard to the point that the streets were flooded and a heavy stream of water covered the streets. Good thing for flip flops.
The streets are so narrow and everything is pretty much on angles and slopes including schools. Since there isn’t much land, they build upwards. There are 7-Eleven’s everywhere. Well Come is their equivalent to our Loblaws, Shop n Park – Food Basic, K mart – Shoppers drugmart.
Since the weather called for rain, we decided the night before that we would make it a shopping day. In the morning, we went to Number 1 bakery and grabbed buns and egg tarts then some Vitasoy from the 7-Eleven for breakfast. We left around 930AM and arrived at Causeway Bay by bus at 10AM. Stores don’t open until 11AM (they stay open really late). The temperature started rising as we started to walk around. The sun came out and the rays were strong. Since Hong Kong is so jam-packed, they build department stores & malls upward. There are tons of shopping centres scattered around. Our biggest haul for shopping was from Uniqlo – we spent about 2 hours in there.
SOGO is the Hong Kong version of America’s Macy’s or Canada’s The Hudson Bay Company where brands are separated into sections in one big building. We all purchased a pair of Birkenstocks for 449HKD a pair ($65CAD). We went to Yoshinoya for lunch, which was basically a beef bowl with rice and onions.
It’s overwhelming to see so many people congested into one area. We grabbed beef jerky from Bee Cheng Hiang and also grabbed mango drinks at Hui Lau Shan (hoy lau saang). We returned home by the 72 bus and grabbed Mcdonalds for dinner – I got the big tasty. It’s weird to see people just leave their trash everywhere and on the tables but they have people that get paid to clean.
Adjusting to the time is difficult – Sleeping at 11PM but waking at 3AM. The time difference is 12 hours from Toronto.
I officially got up at 1030AM and went out to explore and shoot. I went left on the main street and kept going left thinking it would lead me back to my street instead it led me uphill and the road kept curving right. Back to Causeway Bay to take the subway line (MTR) – to Mong Kok – the Kowloon side of Causeway Bay. Their subway lines are very efficient in transporting thousands upon thousands of people each and everyday and are ahead of their time well, at least way ahead from Toronto. The subway line is incredibly easy to use and I highly recommend using it! The automated voice speaks in Cantonese, Mandarin and then English with a British accent. Also here on buses/subs etc there is absolutely no eating or drinking (all about efficiency). The subway also is slightly wider and only has seats going along the side instead of toronto’s seats that sit 2 forward/backwards and along the side. They also have metal seats so its easier to clean and just like Paris’ system, you can get cell service all the way underground. To enter the subway, there are already lanes for people to walk through and then arrows where people line up by glass doors which open when the subway arrives (also a good prevention of people jumping onto the tracks). As you exit you need to swipe your octopus card as the MTR charges by distance. There is absolutely no eating or drinking on the subway or else you might end up in a fight with locals.
It feels like it was 10-15 minutes just to get out of the subway station but Hong Kong is all about escalators at all lengths, angles and speeds.
When we arrived at Mong Kok station, we found ourselves at Langham Place which is a 12-storey shopping complex with a crazy long escalators and all about the astrology theme. It jumps from floor 3 to 8 and when you reach 8 there are stairs to either go up or down.
Just to get to each floor was a trek so we stopped by the food court for lunch. I grabbed the chicken beef with omurice from Curry House. It’s weird but they have food court security people who just watch you eat. I guess it’s for efficiency so they get you in and out in no time. I wanted to goto Tim Ho Wan – 2-8 kwong wah st which is the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant but we couldn’t wait to eat.
We walked shoe street and the ladies market. Ladies market street is quite long but is a great place to bargain for goods of all sorts there.
We finished shopping and decided to meet up with Georgina’s extended family for dinner on the west coast of Hong Kong island. We took the subway to the end then hopped onto the 5B bus. This city is busy all the time – think New York’s Times Square but everywhere. We finally made it to our destination after Sands St stop and had dinner in a food court type hot pot restaurant. We took a sprinter van/bus home.