Sunday, June 18, 2006

Hong Kong - Strangely like New York

I guess it's about time for an update, before I head off into China... Since you last heard from me, I went back to New York and had a crazy week of packing furiously, then a move to storage (with many thanks to Heather, Rachel, Regina, Jeanne, and associated boyfriends), and then lots of work to do before I made a hurried exit on Thursday morning.  I had about 24 hours of travel time through Tokyo to land in Hong Kong Friday night, and I have been staying with Ming Ming's family for the last two days.  They have been way too nice to me and I'm being quite spoiled.  In fact, these first few days are a bit reminiscent of my first few days in Africa - very nice, very air conditioned, and very unlike the rest of my trip, which is what I'm guessing is going to happen starting tomorrow. 
Maybe I'm the only one who didn't realize this, but the majority of the Chinese immigrants in the US, and definitely in New York, are Cantonese - meaning from Hong Kong and the neighboring regions in China.  So basically what that means for me is that Hong Kong is like walking through Chinatown in New York.  They have the same stores, sell the same things, eat the same food, and have the same amount of English available.  In fact, in many ways I feel like I haven't even left New York.  There is even a Times Square and a Mister Softee truck.  It's kind of surreal.  But there's also little differences - the fact that they sell dried out lizards to put in soup and boxes of huge fat black flying insects, also supposedly for soup.  If they have that in Chinatown, I've never seen it!
So anyway, the last couple days I took the Peak Tram up Victoria Peak to get a view of the city, then walked all over downtown Hong Kong, all over Kowloon and up to New Kowloon to see Buddhist and Taoist temples and nunneries. I've also been to several different kinds of markets and to the beach.  I've gone out to eat a few times with Ming Ming's family, and they are trying to show me how things work so I don't look like too much of an idiot in China, which I appreciate, though sometimes I feel like a little child right now.
I've been very lucky so far - knock on wood - in that it's been raining nonstop here for weeks and the first day that the rain stopped was the day I got here.  It's quite hot and humid, but it's sunny, so I'm very thankful.
Anyway, tomorrow I'm supposed to go to a big monastery in the morning and see the biggest seated Buddha in the world (I think).  Then I am planning to cross the border into China and catch an overnight "sleeper" bus to Guilin.  Not sure how that'll go, but keep your fingers crossed for me.  Ming Ming's mom seems worried about it and my lack of fluent Mandarin, but I'm guessing it'll be doable.  They do say China is a big change from here, though, so I'm very curious to see what it looks like on the other side. 
So no funny stories yet - Hong Kong is too westernized for that.  But I'm sure they'll be forthcoming shortly.  Please keep me posted on your own summer adventures, everybody.
Till soon,

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