Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Home sweet home.

We’re finally back.  I can’t believe it.  It’s been an amazing journey.  5 months of constant travel and perpetual motion.  We flew in planes, rode high speed trains, biked in the country side, shared buses with livestock, and took rickety boats down beautiful emerald green rivers… and of course we hiked across some of the most pristine mountains my eyes have ever beheld.  From beautiful hotel rooms complete with all the amenities one might need to tiny wooden guest houses that didn’t guarantee us a constant supply of running water or electricity, together, the two of us, husband and wife, we experienced this whirlwind of an adventure. 

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you have been following this blog.  Thank you for letting us share our experiences with you.  I know there were a lot of entries and way too many pictures but I hope that some of it was at least entertaining.  I hope you enjoyed our ramblings and laughed at our misadventures.  But now it’s time to say good bye because this amazing, breathtaking, awe inspiring, and at times frustrating journey through a myriad of different cultures and religions has come to an end.  I can’t believe it.  I’m tired, I’m beat, and I welcome the familiarity and warmth of home and hearth… but at the same time… I’m a little sad that it’s over, and that we didn’t get to do more, to see, to experience more.  I thought that a trip like this would satiate my desire to experience all the different flavors, all the different cultures and philosophies of the world, and yet I am not sated.  The desire still lingers.  So perhaps it’s not time to say goodbye but rather to say until next time… 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lan Kwai Fong Beer Fest, Victoria Peak, and the slums of Kowloon. Welcome to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Island as viewed from Kowloon.
Chantra planning out our next destination.
The Hong Kong skyline viewed from Victoria Peak.

 Today me and the wife arrived in Hong Kong.  This is officially the last destination of the noodle tour.  In a few day's we'll be home and our little adventure will be over.  But first, there's still the glittering lights of Hong Kong.  Now I never really had any desire to go to Hong Kong and I didn't really know what to expect.  But I gotta say, after spending a few days in this city, Hong Kong ranks right up there as one of my all time favorite places.  It's so different from mainland China.  It's like night and day.  Hong Kong is a clean, cosmopolitan, extremely well planned modern metropolis.  But what I liked the most about Hong Kong is it's diversity.  It's literally one of the most diverse places I've ever come across.  There are Indians, Chinese, Nepali, British, Russian, Nigerian, and all manner of South East Asians.  There are beautiful fashionable Chinese girls walking the streets next to hipsters and business men.  Hawkers sell gaudy knock offs next to some of the most expensive luxury goods shops in the world.  I can get Indian curry, Peking duck, Dim Sum, Pizza, and some of the most amazing sea food all on the same street.  There are old Chinese men playing chess and Mah Jong on well worn and weathered game boards all in the shade of some of the world's tallest and most modern sky scrapers.  I LOVE Hong Kong!  
Taiwanese style stirfried minced pork over rice with hard boiled egg.
Peking Duck.


Rice baked with fried grouper and pineapples in a semi sweet tomato sauce.

Braised pork belly with steamed Chinese broccoli over rice.

Now, let me tell you about where me and missus stayed.  Predictably, hotels in Hong Kong are very expensive.  As expensive as the hotels in Japan.  However, we did manage to book a hostel in a place called Chungking Mansion in the heart of Kowloon.  Some people describe this place as the slums of Hong Kong but I prefer to say that it has character.  It's an old building with 17 floors and over 300 hostels.  The bottom floor is crammed full of little shops and restaurants.  The best description of the ground floor would be a modern day bazaar.  There are money changers, food stalls, porn shops, book stores, jewelry stores, and of course you've got your "pharmacies".  =)  I could see how some people wouldn't like this place but I personally loved it.  Rooms were small but clean and cheap. 

Lan Kwai Fong street during the Beer Festival.

An arm wrestling competition during the beer festival.
We didn't have a whole lot of time in Hong Kong but we tried to make the most of it.  We visited the Avenue of Stars along the famous Hong Kong water front, saw the skyline from Victoria Peak, and got a bit sloshed during the beer fest on Lan Kwai Fong.  And of course, we had some great food.  I'm convinced that Hong Kong has a better food scene than anywhere in China.  So little time for such a great city.  I'm definitely coming back to this place.  Well enjoy the pictures everyone.  I'll see you next time.

Chantra gettin her fade on.
Everybody enjoying the light show from across the water. 

The famous Lan Kwai Fong street.  Former haven for Hawkers and current hot spot for bars and clubs.

What an alcoholic!
Chantra on top of Victoria Peak.  Now this was a beautiful view.

Love these old fishing boats.

An old Chinese Junk in front of towering sky scrapers.  Love it man.

Chantra on the Avenue of Stars. 

The MAN!  Mr. Bruce Lee.

Some Engrish for you.

Love Hong Kong at night.

Just messing with black and white photography.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Southern China: A place where China morphs into South East Asia. Guilin and Guanzhou.

Guilin's Skyline.
We rode around the 4 lakes area but it was like 98 degrees with some crazy humidity so we took a brief break to enjoy the water front and grab a drink. 

The main strip.

A park with the Sun and Moon Pagoda in the back ground.
Wow.  Of all the cities I've been to in China, I definitely like Guilin the most.  It's pretty small when compared to the other major cities of China but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in sheer aesthetic beauty.  Guilin is a small scenic town located next to the famous Li river.  Now this name may not mean much to the western tourist but the Li river has been inspiring Chinese poets, painters, and philosophers for thousands of years.  It's likeness has been committed to pen and paper and etched across countless paintings for generations.  The Li river is truly a beautiful site.  It's lime green waters flow past magnificent karstic formations.  Elegant charming temples can be found perched precariously on verdant green mountains.  Truly awe inspiring.

Local fisherman.

Four Lakes Area.

We took a wrong turn somewhere while biking and ended up somewhere in the country side.

The Li River.

The Li River again.

The Li River with the Flower Bridge.

The town itself is clean and well kept.  The whole area has a lush tropical feel that reminds me much more of South East Asian than it does of China.  And the best thing about Guilin are the locals.  They are much MUCH friendlier than those we've encountered in other parts of China.  It's unfortunate that we didn't have more time to explore the surrounding area but this is definitely another part of China that I have to come back too. 
Guilin's famous rice noodles.  A chicken based stock with young bamboo, peanuts, scallions, soy sprouts, and small bits of roasted pork.

Rice with sauteed onions, jalapeno's, green bell peppers, and beef.  There's also pickled mustard greens in there.  A delicious meal.

Some locals trying to beat the heat.

Some more hot pot.  Lamb and beef along with pork and fish meat balls.  Green vegetables and a spicy dipping sauce.  Much tastier than the Sichuan style hot pot.  Also much less oily.

A temple nestled among one of the many lime stone formations.

Flower bridge.

Rice noodles with braised pork and greens.
After Guilin me and Chantra headed for our last stop in mainland China, Guangzhou or as it's more commonly known, Canton.  Home to the Cantonese people and the famous cuisine.  Again the heat here is oppressive but at least the city is much cleaner than say Beijing or Shanghai.  There isn't much to do in Guangzhou but it's a nice stop over location before you head off into Hong Kong.  My father's family is from a town very close to Guangzhou called Dongguan.  Unfortunately we didn't have time to visit.  The people here are also very friendly and it seems that the closer we get to Hong Kong the more people speak English.  It was far easier to get around Guangzhou than it was in any other city.  Well here are a couple pictures.  Next stop Hong Kong.
Some old folks playing traditional Chinese music at 7 star park.

Some old ladies staying fit while practicing their Wushu at 7 star park. 

Same ladies.  This time they're using fans instead of swords.  Very graceful considering their age.

More old folks singing.  Pretty cool that they're still so active.

The Pearl River near sunset.

The Pearl River after sunset.

Braised pork short ribs with wasabi and stir fried clams with bitter melon and black bean sauce.  Delicious.

The Guangzhou skyline from our hotel room on the 22nd floor.

Is it better in black and white or color?