Rain, Rain, Go Away…

I thought it rained a lot in Wales. I thought coming to Asia would mean sun and blue sky. I brought sun cream, shorts, a maxi dress and even bought a new bikini. So far I’ve had very little use out of any of these things! The sun seemed to be making an appearance this morning so after packing (today I move hotels) I thought I’d make the most of my final few hours here and venture up to the roof for a spot of sunbathing. Next thing I know it’s pouring down with rain, so instead I’m back in bed! The good thing is that rain showers tend to be short-lived, so a trip to Hong Kong island is on the cards for this afternoon.

It’s been another busy week of work and this week I was working up in the sky on floor 15 of a high rise building. One glance out of the window was enough to make me dizzy so I was grateful that the blinds were kept shut!image

On Friday I went on an impromptu trip to Temple Street night market; a long street lined with stalls selling things that are very sparkly and very fake! Everything from children’s toys, clothes, ‘designer’ handbags, and chopsticks. Bartering is expected, though you have to be quite ruthless, walking away if they refuse your offer – nine times out of ten the seller will call after you and agree to the price! I was probably too much of a pushover and should have driven a harder bargain; I will definitely be going again to practise my haggling skills! My favourite purchase was a glow in the dark ‘Cath Kidston’ phone cover – classy!

Today I say goodbye to Tsim Sha Tsui and move to Sha Tin. As much as I’ve enjoyed being here I’m looking forward to being out in the country, away from the noise and busy streets of Kowloon. The one thing I will miss is the view of Hong Kong island; at night it’s stunning and I can’t imagine ever getting fed up of looking at it ๐Ÿ˜Šimage

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Metro Madness

It’s the weekend! Finally, after five long working days, I get two days off. What’s not so great is that my planned long lie-in hasn’t happened as my body is now programmed to wake up at 6am every day (I realise that for a lot of you this is normal, but I’m a freelancer so working a regular five day week doesn’t happen that often!).

This week I experienced using the MTR for my daily commute, and was a bit worried that I’d end up wandering aimlessly around the streets of Hong Kong after changing at the wrong station or getting on the wrong line. But after being shown the route on the first morning it was surprisingly easy to find my way – the metro system here makes a lot more sense than the London Underground! There are maps on the trains that light up, showing you where you need to change for each line/direction, and also which side of the train you need to exit from. Then it’s a short walk to the other side of the platform; none of this walking for miles business to get to the next line! The trains are spotless – no eating or drinking is allowed – and the MTR stations are like shopping malls with eateries and designer shops.

It’s the journey to and from the metro stations that is actually the stressful bit. People here walk VERY slowly, and as someone who likes to walk with purpose, this can be very frustrating, particularly at the end of a long day when I have a bad case of hangry going on! Trying to overtake is a challenge as there doesn’t seem to be any logical pathway, so dodging in and out of the crowd is a bit of a mission! This is especially true when it’s raining, and you add a sea of umbrellas into the equation. Most of this week has been wet, but rather than using my umbrella to protect me from the rain, it became my ‘parting the crowd’ implement as I battled my way through (usually going against the main stream of people) whilst also trying to avoid my eyeball ending up on the end of someone else’s umbrella spike.

Yesterday morning I saw my first glimpse of blue sky since the day after we arrived. The constant low lying cloud can become quite depressing, and often at breakfast you can’t see HK island because it’s shrouded in cloud/smog. When I arrived at Tseung Kwan O yesterday (the area I was working in), the tops of the apartment buildings ย were lost in the cloud, which can’t be much fun if you live up there!image

Tseung Kwan O didn’t seem to be a very cosmopolitan area, and so I got used to being stared at as I wandered around during my lunch break, being the only Western person in the shopping centre. The centre seemed to be a place where the older generation came to do their shopping or just sit and watch the world go by – there were also quite a few people doing their stretches when I arrived first thing in the morning!

So I am now a fully fledged Hong Kong commuter; next week will bring a different route, but I will worry about that on Tuesday morning! First it’s time to enjoy a well deserved rest and some more sightseeing. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Pink Flamingos

Finally back in my hotel room after an exhausting day of exploring on my second day off. Plans to go up Victoria Peak were abandoned when we woke up to low cloud, drizzle and wind this morning, and I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to get much done, but it turned out to be a very productive day! I took a walk around Kowloon park this morning, where they have an aviary full of tropical birds, and beautiful flamingos. It’s such a surreal setting; lush, green vegetation and tropical animals set against a backdrop of skyscrapers and city noise.

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This afternoon saw us sat on the Star Ferry heading over to Hong Kong island. It was my first real experience of walking along the streets of the island; if you don’t like crowds this definitely isn’t the place for you! It makes Kowloon seem like a country village – there are people everywhere, traffic is crazy and buildings are crammed together making it feel almost claustrophobic. We navigated our way to Tim’s Kitchen, a Michelin star dim sum restaurant. Not having tried dim sum before I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I loved it! Well, I loved the barbecued pork puffs and buns; not so keen on the vegetable rice rolls, which were too slimy looking for my liking! As we arrived two minutes before last orders for lunch, we had the place to ourselves and it was so good to enjoy an oasis of calm after battling the crowds!

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Feeling revived after lunch, we went on to Man Mo Temple, a stereotypical Chinese temple where locals come to worship the god of literature and the god of war. The interior is very ornate, with gilt plaques on poles and traditional lanterns; as well as incense sticks, there are scores of incense spirals hanging from the ceiling, and the smell was so intense it was a relief to go back outside!

So that’s me signing off for a few days as I get ready to start the second working week. I won’t have the luxury of a taxi for my commute this week, which means tomorrow will be my first day of navigating my way around the MTR, Hong Kong’s metro system. Let’s hope I don’t get lost!

Ferries, Taxis and Fried Rice

I can’t believe I’ve been in Hong Kong for a week already! I’m so happy to have survived a week of settling in, working and coping with jet lag and today I feel a lot more like myself after my first proper night’s sleep and a lie in!

The first two days were a hazy blur of finding our way around and absorbing lots of information. By day 2 the effects of jet lag were in full swing, but refusing to give in and hide in my room we took a ferry ride over to the island of Cheung Chau. It was a huge contrast to the constant hustle and bustle of mainland Hong Kong; seafood restaurants line the front where you can sit and look out onto the rows of colourful boats docked in the harbour, and bikes are the main mode of transport. We stopped for lunch at one of these restaurants – not being a fan of seafood I was a bit limited for choice but the rice tasted really good (though I don’t think the kitchen would have passed UK food hygiene standards!) Conversation was constantly interrupted by the noise of trailers being towed right past our table, but it all added to the local dining experience!ย image

A post lunch walk and paddle in the sea finished off our visit, and sitting outside on the journey home meant we were able to watch the amazing skyline as we sailed back into Hong Kong island ๐Ÿ˜Š

Then it was time to prepare for the first working week; I was ‘fortunate’ to be provided with a taxi for my daily commute, though I can’t say it was a particularly relaxing experience! Without my seatbelt on I would have spent the journey sliding across the back seat, and maintaining a safe distance behind the vehicle in front is definitely not a priority! But it did mean I didn’t get lost on my way to work, and I felt like a celebrity arriving back at the hotel, having the taxi door and hotel door opened for me (that’s where the similarity ends!).

So all in all an exhausting but enjoyable first week; the rain is easing off (when it rains it really rains), so it’s time to make the most of my two days off and do some more exploring…

Jet lag – it’s a killer!

It’s 3:30am. After feeling slightly off centre and wobbly all day, yawning my way through dinner, you’d think a good nights sleep would be on the cards. But no. After getting only two and a half hours sleep I’m sat in bed, wide awake, drinking tea and eating digestive biscuits. It always amazes me how the body reacts to a change in time zone!

It was a bumpy flight over, with 12 hours of nearly constant turbulence, but being sat amongst Welsh rugby players made for pleasant viewing, so it wasn’t all bad! I felt sorry for them being asked for photographs whilst waiting for baggage; after a 12 hour flight I can’t imagine they felt photo ready! Arriving at our hotel was a relief, and sitting outside eating Pad Thai at 8pm was the perfect way to end our first evening.

My first full day in Hong Kong has been a lot of fun! A ‘tour’ of the surrounding area by someone who has been here over 20 times – we found the main shopping street (very important), had tea at the cultural centre, took the Star Ferry across to Hong Kong island, and stocked up on essentials (like digestive biscuits) at the supermarket. It was a public holiday, so by early afternoon people were out in force, and just walking through the streets was a massive assault on the senses. Smells, sounds, sights – all giving you a real feel for the city. It’s strange to be walking around in summer clothes in early April, but when the sun came out it was hot, and very humid (bad news for my hair!). There are people on every corner asking if you want a tailor, a handbag, a copy watch, and shop upon shop of everything you could think of. There is so much to see and do, and already I know I’m going to fall in love with this place โค๏ธ.image

A Great Adventure Is About To Begin

Tomorrow I fly out to Hong Kong to work there for two months. Sitting on my sofa with my suitcase packed, house cleaned, nails painted, I wonder why I put myself through these new, scary experiences. It would be a lot easier to stick with something that’s within my comfort zone and doesn’t push my boundaries. But I’ve learned that life isn’t about settling, about doing things that are safe and comfortable. It’s about grabbing every opportunity that comes your way and going outside of your comfort zone, because that’s when you realise you are capable of a lot more than you think you are! It’s not about wondering what could have been or wishing for what may be in the future, but about living in the moment, making the most of every day, every experience that is presented to you. So I’m excited about this new opportunity, living and working in a different country, immersing myself in a different culture, and learning new life lessons. Bring on the adventure!