So let's see...the rundown. Our flight was a charter from Okinawa which is awesome because it meant no layover in Taipei and not as much time on airplanes. The downside was that the charter left Okinawa about 2 hours late on Thursday. Wyatt was great, though, playing with other kids in the terminal and burning off lots of energy. By the time we got on our flight, he was wiped out so he slept for the first 45 minutes and then happily sat on the tray table, ate his applesauce and bakery goodies we'd picked up in the airport and played. By the time we got to our room on Thursday night it was getting late - like 8:30 or 9, I think - and we were both tired and hungry. For lack of any better ideas and/or knowledge about where the heck we were, we ate in the hotel. Not exactly the best meal, but at least it afforded us a view of Nathan Road, TGIFriday's and Outback Steakhouse! Sorry, those are just a sight for sore eyes.
We went to bed fully expecting Wyatt to wake up bright and early but those hotel blackout curtains ROCK! He slept until 9:00 on Friday morning! That's the latest we've slept in 14 months. Very exciting. Maybe not conducive to lots of sightseeing, but totally a great way to start our vacation. We got ourselves pulled together, went downstairs for the breakfast buffet, where Wyatt stuffed his face and flirted shamelessly with all the cute servers, and then set out for the day. We took the Star Ferry (a 5-minute walk from our hotel) to Hong Kong island and headed for Victoria Peak via open-top, double-decker bus and tram. That tram ride is cool! It's been operating since 1888 and is like the lead-up to a big drop on a rollercoaster (except not scary because you know there's no big drop). The incline is so steep that it kind of pins you back in your seat. Of course the view from the top is fantastic, even moreso when the weather is nice like it was for us. Well, yeah, it was hot as....something really, really hot and we were super sweaty the whole time, but at least it wasn't raining!
After that, we decided to head to Stanley on the south side of Hong Kong island. Because we're (1) impatient and (2) not good at guessing bus routes without a map, we took a cab. Despite the warnings about cabbies being scary, it was a pleasant ride and our driver even narrated a little when we passed sights worth discussing. Plus Wyatt slept through that ride (his only nap that day, as it turned out) and that alone made it worth the taxi. Oh, and the cranking a/c was nice because did I mention it was hot?
Stanley came highly recommended by my sister and some guidebooks had mentioned it so we figured it was a good place to start. Besides, it had shopping and dining establishments - two of my favorite activities! Sadly, we were a little disappointed in the shopping because a lot of the stuff we've seen here in the gift stores and because we assumed all the other markets we planned to visit would be similar (yes, bad assumption for those of you who missed that foreshadowing). We didn't purchase anything in Stanley (my big regret? not buying the kids' t-shirts because we literally never saw them again) but we did enjoy the wandering and the fantastic late lunch on the second floor of a pub fronting the water. I think Stanley has figured out it's a cool town because there was a lot of construction going on. They've built this big beachside promenade so the alfresco dining I'd read about was non-existant (well, that's not true. we could've eaten at the hot dog place that advertised they used "strictly no intestines".) and I could totally see how it was a quaint little town just a few years ago. Damn tourists - they ruin everything! It was still really enjoyable and I'm glad we went to that side of the island. It was amazing how fast the city gave way to jungled hillsides, luxurious condos and beaches.
Leaving Stanley, we caught a bus back to Central (opting, this time, for the closed-top, double-decker complete with a/c because it was hot) and snagged the prime front row, top deck seats for the ride back.
Wyatt seemed to enjoy the view - and why not? He's used to sitting backwards, all strapped down in the backseat and all of a sudden we put him front and center, loosey-goosey in front of a giant window from which he can watch the world go by while feeling like he's on a ride at Disney. Can't blame him! I enjoyed it, too. Once back at Central, it was back on the ferry for the quick ride across the harbor complete with beautiful golden light on the buildings and a junk cruising past.
Because we'd hate to be accused of not making the most of our weekend in Hong Kong, we went back to the room to clean up a little (you know, it was really hot and we were kind of gross) before regrouping and heading out to the Temple Street night market. It was fun browsing, but again we didn't buy anything. I'm not sure if it was because the stars aligned to make me not feel like purchasing or if it was because I'm really attempting to have fewer things and it was all just stuff...either way, we went home empty-handed. But the atmosphere was fun! It's always fun to look. By the time we wandered Temple Street, it was getting kind of late again and we were hungry so we headed back toward the hotel with a brief stop at Outback for soup and salad. If you really know us, it's no surprise that we couldn't resist the siren song of Outback!
Day 2 started much the same way: slept late (not quite as late, but still much better than our normal 6:15 wake-up) and ate breakfast at the buffet in the hotel. We decided we should go on one of the walking tours through Hong Kong island and that taking the MTR would be the way to go. Off we went, in search of knick-knacks and antiques at bargain-basement prices. We started out at the Li Yuen Street markets, wandered up Pottiger Road (known for its vendors selling ribbons and buttons, according to the guidebook, but we also learned this is a great place to go for wigs, funny glasses and costumes) to Hollywood Road (antiques - great ones! but too big to fit in our extra duffle bag), Cat Street (more antiques), past Man Mo temple, to Upper Lascar Row (vendors selling said knick-knacks (is that how you spell that?) as well as a strange assortment of porn. Nothing like your antique Chinese vase next to a 1980's edition of Penthouse). Again, no purchases. We lunched at a cool pizza place while Wyatt slept in his stroller, then wandered back toward Central. We took the train back to Kowloon and headed for Flower Market Street and the Bird Garden. After a couple of wrong turns took us through yet another street market and a fancy mall (seriously, we just got swept along this walkway and all of a sudden were in the atrium of a shiny, high-end mall - how did that happen?!) I was at my max. Oh the humanity! Literally, all the humanity in every direction, pushing and having no sense of personal space (it was then that I realized we really were in China and all my memories of the groping incident on the bridge in Shanghai came flooding back) drove me to announce that I didn't care how we got there, but I needed to go back to the hotel. NOW.
Wouldn't you know that we saw some signs pointing us in the right direction as we left the masses of people inside and actually found both Flower Market Street and the bird garden? I'm glad we did. Still lots of people, but much less frenzied. If I lived in Hong Kong, I would be at Flower Market Street all the time. Huge bunches of beautiful flowers, arrangements, plants, herbs, etc. for next to nothing. It put my handy little flower tent here to shame. You want some blooming lotus flowers? No problem. You want some huge lillies? Oh, have these that are about nine inches across and only cost two bucks a stem. You need some bamboo? Did you want curvy, straight, corkscrew or angled? I've never seen anything like it and it made me jealous of all the people who can go shop there anytime they want.
And the bird garden - supercool! We read in a guidebook that it was a good place for kids because it's in a courtyard and it's where bird owners (or wannabe owners) go to buy birds, bamboo cages, food, toys, etc. Apparently it's also where people go to stroll with their birdcages. It didn't disappoint and Wyatt thought it was fantastic. Jeff was on "don't touch anything" duty while I manned the camera (standard ops around here). I kind of wanted to buy a fancy bamboo birdcage, but couldn't really justify it somehow. They were really beautiful, though. It was all fun and games until a bird got itself unchained and swooped past Wyatt. It scared him to the point of tears, but he recovered quickly and went back to pointing at all the other birds.
We decided to eat close to the hotel again, so after our train ride back and showers all around (right....it was hot, we were gross), we headed toward the Ocean Terminal near the ferry pier. I guess it's where the cruise ships dock, but it's just a huge mall. And they had a California Pizza Kitchen. And it was tasty. And also? That mall had a new Aveda salon so guess who finally got a haircut? Yep. I was long overdue and figured it probably wouldn't turn out any worse than my haircuts here and at least I was getting the full Aveda salon experience. Jeff took Wyatt back to the hotel via a stroll on the waterfront promenade (I'm sorry I missed that photo opportunity - I'm sure it was great) while a Chinese guy named Matt cut my hair as I flipped through Elle UK. Ahhhh, salons. You people who go to one for every haircut should take a moment to appreciate it next time - they're a treat!
Day 3: our last morning before heading back to the airport and we decided to give the shopping one last chance by going to the jade market. I'm not sure if was sheer will or the fact that they actually had somewhat interesting pieces of jewelry, but I finally made some purchases. Whew! I'd hate to come home from Hong Kong empty-handed! I was chagrined when the vendor with whom I'd been bartering for 15 minutes handed me a business card so I could check her website. Well, of course she has a website, right? We made it to the airport in plenty of time and Wyatt got to do just enough running around (literally - thank God for wide open gate areas!) to completely wear him out for the trip home. He slept from the time we got on our bus to go out to the plane until we were halfway through our descent into Naha.
It can't be said enough that Wyatt was awesome during this trip. He napped on the go, stayed up late, slept in, entertained himself by looking out the window, ate like a champ, flirted shamelessly and smiled for God-only-knows-how-many pictures on people's cell phones. We couldn't have asked him to be any easier. Maybe we've turned a corner? We found ourselves thinking about our 'next trip before we leave' and realized that we're outta here in about 10 weeks. That's not nearly enough time! Hopefully we can get just one more in before we go....If we don't, Hong Kong was a pretty good way to end our Asian travels!