Monday, October 4, 2010

24 hour train ride to Beijing to Hong Kong. Sept. 19th-26th. Hilarous series of events!

Sept. 19th: After missing the train the first time we were handed a piece of paper that explains that we need to be at the train station 90min before the train leaves. Had they given us that piece of paper when we bought the tickets in the first place we would have known better. So this morning we woke up extra early, ate an amazing breakfast at our hostel, and headed to the train station. We got there 2 hours before our train left and had to go through immigration.

Once we got on the train we couldn't help but be a bit nervous of who our cabin mates would be. We were not looking forward to sharing our room with men. Luckily our cabin mates were Lucinda from the UK and an old Chinese woman who we decided to call Gertrude and her nickname was Gerty. Gerty did not speak a word of English but she pointed to things and taught us the ways of the train cabin. She showed us how to get up to our beds and that we had to take our shoes off before climbing up to them. We looked out our window and saw Frank, the German guy who helped us exchange our tickets, who ended up in the next car. We went outside to talk to him and the train was getting ready to leave. Gerty got nervous and started tapping on the window to try to get our attention to come in. We then saw old Gerty talking to all the men on the train and her new nickname was Flirty Gerty.

I consider us really lucky to have Lucinda and Gerty in our cabin. When we walked by the other cabins they were filled with tons of Chinese people eating ramen and other interesting smelling foods. They were also extremely loud and playing card games till 2am.That night we had dinner with Frank and Lucinda in the dining car, had a couple of beers and slept in our hard sleeper beds. I have to admit the sleeper beds were not bad and I slept pretty well.

Sept. 20th: The train woke us up at 7am by blasting Chinese music throughout the cars. I walked to Frank's cabin and woke him up to have breakfast in the dining car. When I woke him up he looked dazed, confused and when he finally came to I think he wanted to beat me up for waking him up. Eden, Lucinda, me and grumpy Frank headed to the dining car and Frank invited his new cabin mate Luis who is also from the UK. I was not able to eat anything on the train so I stuck to eating a number of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Our train arrived at 1pm. We said goodbye to our friends, hopped on the subway, and made our way to the YWCA. We did not realize that the YWCA was so nice. We got used to sleeping in hostels with bunk beds and shared bathrooms. Some rooms were clean and others not so much and I don't even want to get into the bathroom situation. The YWCA was like staying at a Hyatt Hostel. We had our own room with our own bathroom. I told Eden not to get too used to this since we could only afford 2 nights here.

We then met up with Pete, who we met climbing up Mt. Fuji, and his old co workers for drinks and dinner. We had dinner at Bourban St. and ate amazing cheese burgers. We then bar hopped all over Soho and chatted up with some Hong Kong locals. We ended up grabbing beers and Doritos at a 7eleven at 2am and headed back to the YWCA to pass out.

Sept. 21st: The other amazing thing about the YWCA is that you get free breakfast the not so amazing thing was the food. I called an old childhood friend of mine and did not eat much since we were meeting up with him for an early lunch.

Eden and I met up with my friend and he took us to a dim sum place where they walk around with carts with different food. We had dumplings and spring rolls and Eden ate shark fin, beef stomach and turtle shell. I did not have the guts to try those things. My friend had to go back to work so Eden and I headed back to our hotel room since it was raining cats and dogs in Hong Kong.

My stomach was not feeling so great after the dim sum. Pete and his old co workers wanted to head to Kowloon, another Island off Hong Kong, and look at the light show. I manned up and we headed to the ferry to Kowloon and walked to the Sheraton to see the light show. The light show consisted of all the buildings, on the Hong Kong main Island, lighting up with neon lights and lazers. The show lasted for 10 minutes and then we walked down and headed to an Indian restaurant called Gaylord, which Pete and his friends found amusing. We ate amazing Indian food and went to a wine bar down the street. I was in a great mood but not in the mood to drink so I chose chocolate milk and sat there and sang every song that played at the bar. Everyone was impressed that I knew all the words to every song. It was our last night with Pete and his friends. We took a cab back to the main Island and made plans to have breakfast with them the next morning.

Sept. 22: Pete woke me up the next morning and I was having a strange dream. My words to Pete: "Pete why did you wake me up? She was just about to juggle the buns" Pete looks at me like wtfdelirous. Perhaps it was the Indian food. We had another crappy free breakfast and again I did not eat much because my childhood friend wanted to meet for an even earlier lunch that day. We said goodbye to Pete and his friends and got ready to check out of the YWCA.

We then headed out to meet my friend for Vietnamese food at Bon Appetit. I wanted to keep it light and ate a vegetarian Vietnamasese sandwich. Eden and my friend ordered spicy food such as vegetable green curry and spicy udon soup. After lunch my friend took us to a hookah bar and we relaxed for a little bit before we had to head to our new hostel.

We grabbed our bags from the YWCA and headed to the other side of Hong Kong. When we got to the Yesinn hostel it looked like we were in China again. Bye bye clean and nice YWCA.... hello sketchy dorm room with 1 bathroom for 6 people. We checked in and the elevators in this building were so annoying. There were no up buttons! The check in for Yesinn was on floor 5 and our dorms were on floor 15. We would have to go all the way to the first floor to get back up to the 15th floor. Who created this thing?

We were told to check out Victoria Peak. Standing at 552 metres above sea level, the Peak is the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island and a natural signaling post for incoming cargo ships in the nineteenth century. Now a days people take the peak tram which is the only way to truly experience the beauty of Hong Kong's natural wonders.

We stood in line to take the tram and we were in one line with all the Asian tourists and then for some odd reason there was a second line for men and we think they were Pakistanis or Arabs or maybe they were from India? We pushed our way through to get on to the tram and sat down to the right and the Pakistan, Arab/ men from  India were to our left and they were staring at me like they wanted to capture me and take me away. The way they were staring at me made me feel so uncomfortable so I just tried to ignore them. All of a sudden I looked at the corner of my eye and noticed a flash was going off and not in the direction of the view but at me so I ducked and hid my face in my scarf. They tried to take a photo of me and that freaked me out. When we reached the top of the peak we waited for them to get off first and walk away and then we booked it to get away from them and made our way to this beautiful restaurant called the lookout. It reminded us of the Tavern on the Green in central park and the food was amazing. We decided to skip the tram and take a bus back to the city which saved us time and money and sketchy stares from people.

Sept. 23rd: The next morning we woke up and met all of our dorm mates who came in in the middle of the night. We needed our caffeine fix so we headed to Starbucks across the street. This guy was listening to our conversation and found us to be quite amusing so we invited him to sit down and drink his tea with us. His name was Joe from Canada and he also just finished teaching English in Korea just like Eden. They bonded over inside jokes about Korea and talked about the kids they taught while I enjoyed my English Breakfast tea latte. We were going to visit another island Cheung Chau because we were told there was a mid-autumn festival there to see. We invited Joe to tag along since he was waiting on Yesinn to figure out his hostel situation. He took a quick bird bath, since he had been traveling for 3 days without showering, and we headed to the ferry. When we arrived at the island it was kind of dead. The restaurants near the water were a little pricey so we decided to take some back streets and find a local restaurant to eat a cheap meal.

We decided to walk and see what else the island had to offer. We stopped at a small shop for ice cream and beer and I wanted to walk up just a little bit more before we headed back to the ferry. We were about to head back and leave the island until this father and his son asked us if they knew where the pirate cave was. I said "there is a pirate cave here? Lets all go!" So Joe, Eden, Father and son and me headed up the island to find the pirate cave. We found it and the little boy and his father were so cute. His name was Cayden and he wanted to find pirate treasure. We walked through the dark cave and tried to help the little boy find some treasure. He found the end to a key chain and he was soo excited and called it pirate treasure. I wish I could get that excited about a broken key chain. We got out of the cave, walked to the ferry, and made our way back to our hostel to shower and go out.

We picked a time to meet Joe for dinner and drinks. We decided to invite our dorm mate Francesco from Italy and Joe brought his dorm mate Shahar from Israel. I was craving Mexican food and I found this place called Taco Loco in Soho and it was a delicious choice. We ordered a bucket of beer and there were 5 of us and 6 beers. We decided to play never have I ever to see who gets to drink the last beer. I won! I am the innocent one in the group ;) We then headed to 7eleven grabbed some beers sat on some steps and played some drinking games while Joe asked a number of strange questions like if we were an animal what would you be or if you were an element what would you be? Francesco said he would be a snail and for an element he wanted to be mud. Lol weird! I chose killer whale as an animal and I said I would want to be the wind so I could travel. We made the last subway home and passed out.

Sept. 24th: For some odd reason I had been craving a bagel with cream cheese and lox. Perhaps its the Jew in me I don't know but I needed it. When we went to Taco Loco we noticed this place called Archie B's which had lox and schmear it was calling my name. When we got to Archie B's they told me they were closed and that they don't open until 12pm. It was 10am I was starving and couldn't wait so we ended up going to this place called mix and had chai lattes and salmon sandwiches.

Today was the day we were going to see the big Buddha. The Tian Tan Buddha is a model of the Altar of Heaven or Earthly Mount of Tian Tan , the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. It is one of the five large Buddha statues in China. The Buddha is 34 meters (112 ft) tall, weighs 250 metric tons, and was the world's tallest outdoor bronze seated Buddha prior to 2007. You have to climb 268 steps in order to reach the Buddha this was a great workout if you enjoy the stair master.

When we bought our tickets to see the big Buddha we decided to pay for the vegetarian meal that was offered after your climb. We hiked up the stairs to see the Buddha, took some photos, and walked down to eat our meal which we were excited about. When we were seated they brought us our food and I could not help but be repulsed. They gave us soup that looked like dirty water with mushrooms and it was cold, slimy looking vegetables, and gooey tofu. I ate what I could tolerate and we treated ourselves to gelato after wards and got on a cable car that took us down the mountain back to the city to take the subway. When we got to the entrance of the cable car these old men, again from Pakistan/India I don't know, wanted to take photos with us. We decided to amuse them and said sure so we did, hopped on the cable car, and that's when Eden decided to tell me she was afraid heights. We made it down the mountain without her freaking out took the subway and got dressed up to celebrate our 1 month anniversary of traveling!!!!

We chose to eat at a Mediterranean restaurant called Olive. We sat down and ordered an appetizer of hummus and pita and I ordered a vegetarian meal while Eden ordered chicken with cous cous. We noticed that we were not getting the proper service we were looking for. For instance I had to keep asking for water and our waiter never asked us how our meal was and he didn't notice that Eden and I had switched our main courses because mine ended up being way to spicy for me. So I decided to tell him that I was a food critic for a guidebook and that's when things got interesting. The waiter said he wish he knew because then he would have treated us better. He went to the back and I noticed the chef came closer to our table to check us out and gave him a quick look and smile. Our waiter then came back and told us that desert was on the house. He also introduced us to the chef his name was Eric and Alex was our waiter. They invited us to meet up with them after their shift was over. We had a couple of drinks and called it a night.

Side note: Apparently the chef already noticed me when I went to the bathroom. He told me that my hair was beautiful and that he came closer to our table to get a better look. I apparently did a little hair flip that caught his attention and he was going to send desert to our table for free before he knew I was a food critic. How do you like them apples!

Sept. 25th: Today we met up with Shahar, Joe's dorm mate from Israel, and we headed to Macau with his new friend Elijah. Macau is the Las Vegas of Hong Kong where you go to the casinos to gamble. We were going there to see the fireworks. There was a firework contest going on between Japan and France. We took a ferry from the main Island to Macau and when we docked I was starving and not feeling well. We wandered and found this cheap restaurant where we all had noodle soup with mushrooms. Elijah was meeting up with a friend of his so he headed out and Eden, Shahar and I decided to check out the casinos. None of us gambled but we went to the Wynn and MGM Grand and then walked to see the fireworks. Japan was first and the show was amazing. I had never seen fireworks like these in my life; the show was spectacular! Eden and I looked around and noticed how large the crowd was. We decided to head back to the ferry to get back to the main Island and when we arrived to the ferry terminal the next ferry did not depart for another hour. So what did we do for an hour? We decided to buy a bottle of wine for the trip and when we were able to sit in our superclass ferry seats we cracked open the wine and started drinking straight from the bottle. So classy I know. We landed on the main Hong Kong Island and headed to Soho to meet Eric and Alex. We found them and we ended up at an Irish pub and laughed and joked around. Shahar ended up meeting up with us as well he told us that the France fireworks display show was unreal and beat Japan. Oh well.

Shahar ended up heading back to the hostel and we stayed with Eric and Alex. It was 3am and I was starving so we roamed around the city trying to find food or anything open other than a 7 eleven. Eric and I went down one street and started talking to a local. He was a guy with an interesting stylish mohawk thing going on with an earring and the tightest jean shorts I have seen. He lead us to a restaurant and took us down a weird path and by the time we got to the restaurant we realized how close we were, when we were at the Irish pub, and we literally spent 30min trying to find a place to eat. Eric said the food here is disgusting so none of us ate that night. So much for that!

Sept. 26th: Today is the day we left for Thailand. We had enough time to head to Archie B's and get rid of my bagel with lox and cream cheese craving. It was the most delicious thing ever!!! We packed up all of our things at the Yesinn hostel and made our way to the airport. Eden ended up having to sit next to this Chinese man who would not stop talking and unfortunately farted right next to her. We ended up flying Thai airways and enjoyed our nicely packaged kosher meals.

Side note: Again moving forward will always order Kosher meals on a flight. You get served first and the food is delicious.

We arrived in Thailand and met up with Scott, a friend of Eden's, who took us to an awesome hostel in Bangkok.

Now off to eat amazing Pad Thai!

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