“Indo-China is a great bay-window bulging from the southeastern corner of Asia, its casements opening on the China Sea and on the Gulf of Siam. Of all the countries of the Farther East it is the most mysterious; of them all it is the least known. Larger than the State of Texas, it is a land of vast forests and unexplored jungles in which roam the elephant, the tiger and the buffalo; a land of palaces and pagodas and gilded temples; of sun-bronzed pioneers and priests in yellow robes and bejeweled dancing girls. Lured by the tales I had heard of curious places and strange peoples to be seen in the interior of the peninsula, I refused to content myself with skirting its edges on a steamer. Instead, I determined to cross it from coast to coast.”
– E. Alexander Powell – Where The Strange Trails Go Down, 1922
I did not quite travel coast to coast, I did not trek across the peninsula on elephant back, nor in a Renault held together with twine and wire. It also was not 1922 and I never felt the need for a .45 service automatic as Powell did when he was making his way through. Below are some words and photos to share in my experiences of traveling Cambodia, Vietnam, and Hong Kong over the course of two weeks. It was not nearly long enough, but was one of the grandest trips I have had yet.
“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. ”
― Lin Yutang
I’ve always found it easy to become inspired, and equally easy to be complacent. It is the complacency that I am always attempting to quell. Sure, my pillow is the best pillow, my Mom’s cooking is the best cooking, New York City is the best city, but what is life without some funk and daring? I’ve been fortunate enough in life to have done a bit of travel. This trip, however, was a true adventure. This was another world, completely unfamiliar, something I’ve only read about. Which is one reason why South East Asia had been on my list for some time. Cambodia, Vietnam and Hong Kong, this time.
“But that’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to know what people are talking about. I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”
― Bill Bryson
This quote from Bryson was in his book on travels in Europe. While I’m sure he was being true to his experiences in crossing the street, my travels in Europe seemed mostly civilized in comparison to my time in South East Asia. Mostly, besides that bank the police had to rescue us from. But when one attempts to cross the street in [Saigon traffic](http://vimeo.com/32958521), it’s a game. There are few traffic lights to assist your panicked journey, just find an open pocket, walk into it with steady confidence and the swarms of motorbikes will engulf you. Keep walking and you’ll make it through to the other side. At times, you’ll wonder how was it possible.
Our trip took us from Cambodia to Vietnam, and then to Hong Kong. From there my girlfriend, Shell, and her family would move into mainland China and explore further while I flew back home. I have broken the posts down by day, if some subject does not strike your fancy I urge you to not skip to the next post as several days had multiple things going on. Just scroll down a bit and you’ll see the story and pictures change.
“Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”
– Kurt Vonnegut
Hong Kong, being one of the finance capitals of the world, is a proper and modern metropolis. It also has the prices to prove it. Living in New York one becomes numb to these numbers. It is the cost of living in a vibrant place. But after spending ten days in places where a dollar could fetch about anything desired, paying $300HK for a cab ride from the airport to our hotel was a wake-up.
This leg of our trip waves bon voyage to Minh and Paul as they continue on their six-week journey through Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. We open our arms to Bob and Susi, Shell and Kalysa’s parents, as well as good family friends of theirs, Sam and his wife Stacy. Sam goes east for business regularly and was ready to show us a good time around Hong Kong and show off his Cantonese skills. Our first day was a wet and rainy time, but we made the best of it by using the covered walkways and the ever sprawling malls.
We stayed in a section of the city known as Kowloon. We spent much of the day wandering around and taking the city in, riding ferries and such. The bulk of my Hong Kong photos come with tomorrow’s post, but after our wandering adventure, we headed back to the hotel for a couple drinks before we ready for dinner and more drinks!
After dinner, we make our way back to The W and continue to jolly our spirits. When I got back to our room I couldn’t help but attempt some long exposures of the bay from our window.
“Unfortunately, the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting.”
― Haruki Murakami
Our time in Hong Kong is highlighted by Sam’s enthusiasm and generosity. I’m lucky to have been able to travel this city with the Hamilton family, him, and his wife. They were a blast to hang with and I fully enjoyed exploring the city with everyone. Day two, with the weather cooperating with us, we put on some miles and I snap a lot of photos. Here’s the dump, starting with the view we have while we rub our tired eyes.
After Victoria Peak, we wandered about town, bought some wine, got some lunch, and then attempted to go see the [Big Buddha](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tian_Tan_Buddha). What we didn’t know was that the cable cars to carry you there were shut down for three weeks of maintenance. I would have loved to see it, but I also had ever-present grumblings from my digestive system. It might have been for the better, for me at least, that we headed back to the hotel. The hour and a half one-way bus ride alternative to the cable cars, in hindsight, would have been a terrible idea.
The video below is a little long, and again unedited. 4:40 minutes but is a taste of the HK subway in action. This particular ride is mostly above ground and allows you to see out on the bay.
After we got back to the hotel we all decided to head up to the infinity pool at The W.
After the pool, we all got ready for dinner. We met in the lobby, I excused myself, and everyone went and had a good time. I, however, went back to my room and dealt with whatever Hong Kong had given me. Luckily, The W has very nice bathrooms. Also, surprising considering how daring and careless I had been throughout the trip in arguably riskier countries. The next day we would meet at 5:30 AM as the rest of the group would move to Shenzhen to catch a flight to Chongqing to take a tour down the Yangtze and later tour Beijing and The Great Wall.
I took my time getting my things together and then made it down three levels subterranean beneath the W. The Kowloon subway station is below the mall which is below the hotel. The added bonus of this is the Airport Express. Buy a rather reasonably priced ticket ($13US, I think) then find your airline and check in. That’s right, directly below the hotel I checked into my flight, gave them my bags, got my boarding pass and seat assignment. Then go another level down, board the clean commuter style train, and be whisked off to the airport. Only two stops stood between me and Hong Kong International. That could be the most impressive thing about Hong Kong! New Yorkers long for such a solution. Imagine a single purpose train that went from Penn to Grand, to Jackson Heights, to LGA, then JFK. That’s all it did. You would check your bags etc before boarding the train. It’ll never happen.
That could be the most impressive thing about Hong Kong! New Yorkers long for such a solution. Imagine a single purpose train that went from Penn to Grand, to Jackson Heights, to LGA, then JFK. That’s all it did. You would check your bags etc before boarding the train. It’ll never happen.
Hong Kong International is a slick, clean airport and is like a mall. Just like the entire city it represents. I got a latte and some fruit, hooked into the free WiFi so I could call my parents and catch up. I learned US-bound flights from Asia have second screenings at the gate. Which led to my bottle of water for the flight being thrown out, but at least Cathay Pacific is an amazing airline and gave me as much of whatever I wanted on the flight, including Cabernet. Sixteen hours later, the city I call home greeted me. I promptly slept a lot, uncontrollably.
“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our door step once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.”
― Ryszard Kapuściński