Friday, October 29, 2010

Just another day in the HK - Hong Kong, China

We headed out to Lantau Island to see the Tian Tan Buddha. We knew there was a cable car ride in store but we didn't realize it was going to be 25 minutes long. We just kept connecting from one mountain to the next. We opted for the normal cable car but you could have paid more for a completely see-through car. Can you imagine riding in a cable car a billion feet above ground and being able to see-through the floor. I think it would have been fun for five minutes but not twenty five!

The Buddha was pretty cool. We trekked up the steps for a great view of the grounds. Afterwards, we took a bus to Tai O, a small town in the area. We walked through the sleepy fishing village streets for awhile and then decided to head back to the city. That evening we took it easy and went and saw Wall Street at the cinema. Not a great movie but we sure enjoyed the caramel corn.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hong Kong is the bomb - Hong Kong, China

That's right folks, we have made it to our final destination of the trip. We immediately fell in love with Hong Kong. The drive into the city at night was stunning. It also doesn't hurt that we are staying at the fabulous W Hotel in Kowloon (thanks to Lizzy's Starwood points from her good old consulting days). After enduring the rock hard Asian beds throughout our trip, these beds are heavenly and the sheets are amazing!!!!

Since Matt only had one day with us in Hong Kong, we tried to hit the major sites our first day. We jumped on the Star Ferry and headed over to Hong Kong Island. Our first adventure was taking the Peak Tram - which resulted is breathtaking views of the city. Hong Kong is magnificent if you can catch it on a smog free day. We had some bright blue skies in the morning but by the time we had gotten to the top of the Peak the smog had rolled on in. So sad!

We walked through the wet market and saw lots of fish, fruits, and veggies. Yum - if you can handle the smell. Then we wandered through the Sheung Wan neighborhood and saw lots of dried fish skins and other dried "things" and we saw a lot of Chinese medicine shops. Our feet were tired at this point, so we caught a double decker tram and headed for the Hong Kong Park. We walked around for a bit and hopped on the subway to see the LDS Hong Kong Temple. It was closed since it was Sunday, but we admired it beauty from the outside.

We grabbed a bite to eat and then headed back to the hotel for an evening of swimming in the rooftop pool. We watched the light show that happens every night at 8pm on 30 of the buildings around the harbor. There were lots and lots of bright colors. Sadly, the time came for us to part ways with Matt. We had a great time with him but unfortunately it was time for him to enter back into reality again. Boo!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Land of rice patties - Mai Chau

We really wanted to see the famous rice patty terraces so we planned another tour with Ethnic Travels. This time it was just the three of us, our guide Thien, and our driver. We left Ha Long Bay and drove three or four hours to our next pit stop. The scenery on our drive was incredible. It was so green and jungle like. At one point it was like we were back at Ha Long Bay but on dry ground. It was incredible.

We stopped to eat dinner with a local Vietnamese family before heading to our hotel for the night. When we arrived they immediately whisked us away on a moonlit boat ride through their small village. At one point we were floating through a cave with bats flying all around us. Thank goodness Matt had his trusty flashlight handy so he could guide us home! We had a yummy authentic Vietnamese dinner. After dinner we sat with the family and attempted to have a conversation in broken English. We also met their pet gecko who can predict the weather. As far as we can tell he isn't a fake. He got the weather right the next day. Who needs

After dinner we went to our hotel. Lizzy wasn't feeling well so she went straight to bed. Matt and I went to the hotel lobby to check our email on our ipads. Before we knew it we were teaching the teenage Vietnamese kids how to use them. They were oohing and aahing every second. It was so fun watching them play on it. I finally decided to call it a night when I saw the Germans roll in. Seriously, can you believe we keep running into them?

The next morning we drove about three hours to Mai Chau - home of the rice patties. We arrived at another Vietnamese family house and hopped right onto some bicycles. We spent an hour and a half riding through the rice patty fields. It was incredible. Never in my wildest dreams had I ever imagined I would be riding a bike through the rice fields if Vietnam. It was magical! We rode through some villages and everyone we passed yelled "hello" to us. The children were adorable and would yell "hello" several times and would wave vigorously. You couldn't help but smile and laugh and yell "hello" back.

After our bike ride we ate another authentic lunch with another family. We climbed up the stilted house and ate our meal sitting on their bamboo floor. The family was super friendly and we loved seeing how they lived. It was interesting seeing how different the Vietnamese houses are in different villages. After lunch we jumped back into the car for a four hour ride ride back to the Hanoi airport.

We had an amazing time in Vietnam and can't wait to come back again. We are particularly dying to explore northern Vietnam. We had a sneak peak at some pictures and it looks incredible. Everyone needs to come and visit Vietnam. It's incredible!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pangea - Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Our trip to Ha Long Bay was amazing. We immediately fell in love with our cute little tour guide, Thao, who accompanied us on the drive from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. She had the highest voice, biggest smile, and sweetest personality ever known to mankind. She even sang us a few traditional Vietnamese songs along the way.

When we arrived at the port we switched tour guides (Thien replaced Thao) and we picked up a loud and funny French woman, a charming young Brit, and a lovely Danish couple. We had so much fun with them. Somewhere along the way the French woman decided she was going to award points to each country when they said something funny, sang an amazing song, or jumped in the water. It made for a good time!

Our ride through Ha Long Bay was so beautiful. We were mesmerized as we traveled through the 3000ish limestone cliff islands. We stopped and got onto a smaller row boat and explored a small fishing village. The children were playing in boats instead of backyards and the teenagers were rowing boats with their feet! It was so fun to observe. Afterwards, we got back on the boat and headed to the place we were going to dock for the night. Once we docked, out in the middle of the bay, we jumped in the water for a quick swim. Matt was even brave enough to jump off the top of the boat. That is where the USA picked up their first point from the French woman!

At dinner we decided to join the two dinner tables together to unite the countries -- we called it Pangea. Our boat was tied up to another boat full of Germans. We attempted to make friends with them but they wanted none of we just left them to their boring selfs. We had a fun time talking to everyone on our boat. Everyone had such an interesting story to tell. It was Thien's birthday so each country sang her a special birthday song. The discussion got funnier and funnier as the night went on and as they downed four bottles of wine and a bottle of whiskey. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time! I think they even had a fun time with three sober Mormons.

The next morning we ate breakfast and cruised back to the port. We stopped at a restaurant for our last meal with our fun little group. We said our goodbyes and each headed off to different Vietnam adventures! We hope we cross paths again in the future.