Friday, December 26, 2008

12.21.08: Hong Kong

This incredible journey has been a lot of work...schlepping, hiking, freezing, defecating in holes in the ground, sleeping in train cars while being stared down by Chinese men or on rat-infested boats. Well, today, we were unexpectedly rewarded with a one-day-beach-resort vacation.

We boarded the top-level of a double decker bus on Hong Kong Island and went up, up, over the mountains until suddenly, the high-rises were behind us and we were on what seemed to be a tropical isle. Yes, south Hong Kong is the Honolulu to north Hong Kong's San Francisco and Kowloon's New York City. Hopping off at the completely inappropriately named Repulse Bay, we spent a couple hours lounging on the beautiful crescent of a beach, something I never thought I'd get to do on this trip. It was unseasonably warm, and although the winter clothing and heavy black boots that I brought for the rest of the trip wasn't exactly working for me, I wasn't complaining at all about the 80-degree weather. It felt WONDERFUL.

(Romantic Stanley...Two words that don't normally fit together)

From there, we went on to an area called Stanley, whose restaurant-lined seaside promenade was reminiscent of Monaco or any other high-end, European resort town. We sat outside and ordered an absolute! I know, we could have held out a few more days for the real deal in NY, but honestly, after Chinese food for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the past three weeks, I'll be just fine if I don't see another noodle 'til next Christmas. This trip definitely made me realize how spoiled by variety we are at home.

As the sun set over the harbor, we hopped back onto the bus and headed into downtown Hong Kong. Just about when we reached the bus depot, something caught the corner of my eye, but couldn't be. Could it? We jumped off early to investigate and yes! It was! An enormous menorah was erected in Hong Kong's Central Square for the first night of Chanukah, and several hundred Jews were hanging out, preparing to light it. If I thought a day at the beach was unexpected, this one really took my by surprise. Jews in China. Who knew?

(Chabad of Hong Kong Wishes You a Bright Happy Chanukah!)

Tomorrow will be our last day in this complex country, and despite the aforementioned less-than-comfortable conditions, this trip has been fascinating from the start. In just over three weeks, we covered thousands of miles and many different types of terrain, from city to jungle to mountain to beach. We experienced culinary adventures, physical challenges, breathtaking views, hilarious cultural misunderstandings, and even made some friends along the way. It truly was the trip of a lifetime.

(One of my favorites of an amazing trip...the view from Mt. Emei's summit)

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