May 31, 2011

Cheung Chau Island (Part 2 – Food and Drink)

Yesterday I wrote a post about taking a day trip to Cheung Chau Island while I was in Hong Kong. But I didn’t show you everything, so today, I bring you more Cheung Chau fun!

First, I have some pictures of the dim sum I ate for brunch on Cheung Chau.

Look at all those steaming backets filled with various goodies.

In the full post: chicken feet, shrimp dumplings and gaiwan cups. (more…)

May 30, 2011

Cheung Chau Island (Part 1)

During my first full day in Hong Kong, my friend took me to one of the outlying islands of Hong Kong, Cheung Chau island (長州). Hong Kong is basically made up of 4 areas: Kowloon and the New Territories on the mainland, Hong Kong Island across the bay, and the Outlying Islands, the other 232 or so islands. Cheung Chau is one of the easier to get to islands and fairly small island, making it easy to go to for a day trip. It mostly functions as a little fishing port. Fishing is the main industry for the 30,000 people who live on (and around) the island. (But “around the island,” I mean that some people live in their boats.) It takes about an hour and 4 USD to get to Cheung Chau from Central port in downtown Hong Kong.

Cheung Chau Port. Unlike Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories, this island has no high-rises, making it less overwhelming. But it is by no means laid back. We were swimming through massive crowds all day long.

So many people! Rumor has it that many Hong Kongers get the idea that it might be nice to getaway for a relaxing weekend trip to this island. But with so many people, visiting Cheung Chau is not at all relaxing.

Starfish for sale. I asked my friend if people eat starfish. She told me that they use it to flavor soups.

Click to see more more more pictures! (more…)

May 25, 2011

The Hong Kong Skyline

Hong Kong is often cited as one of the most impressive skylines in the world, and considering how dense the city is, it’s no surprise that downtown Hong Kong is filled with skyscrapers. The tall buildings are most impressive at night, when the neon lights shine bright enough to block out the stars. But it’s not just in downtown. Even when I ventured to areas near the end of the MTR (Hong Kong’s metro)  line, I still saw high rise after high rise.

Hong Kong is proud of it’s skyline and they show every evening, 365 days a year, at 8 pm with a light show. My friend told me that sometimes the announcements that run during the show are in English, sometimes Mandarin and sometimes Cantonese. She isn’t sure why it changes or when. When I saw the light show, the announcements were in Mandarin, which is Greek to me, so if the announcements enhance the experience in any way, then I missed out.

The light show and the skyline is on Hong Kong island, in the Central district, but to get the best view you need to be across the bay. From Central, you can take the star ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui for just a few Hong Kong Dollars (less than 50 cents USD). While lounging on the steps outside of the Hong Kong Museum of Art and watching the show, you can also check your e-mail (if you have a WiFi deviece such as an iPhone). That area has free government WiFi. I wish there was free WiFi in the downtowns of more cities!

A junk boat passes in front of the Hong Kong skyline.

Skyline Light show


May 24, 2011

Hong Kong Market (for the ladies)

I arrived in Hong Kong on Saturday afternoon. After going through customs, I met my friend at the airport (she was only a little late). She took me back to her apartment so I could put my stuff down and we headed out for some quick sightseeing. She took me to a night market called the Ladies Market, located in Kowloon. At the ladies market, you can find a variety of cheap-o goods for sale, from knock-off handbags to souvenirs. But the real draw of any outdoor market is the atmosphere and the people watching.

Chinese style souvenirs

Shoes (for the ladies)

More photos in the full post…


May 23, 2011

Golden Week

Golden Week is one of my favorite times of the year. Around the first week of May, Japan has 4 public holidays. They are so close together, that it is usually possible to take a week off of work, but only take 2 vacation days. It is one of the busiest times to travel both within Japan and to and from Japan. This year, Showa Day fell on April 29th, Constitution Memorial Day was May 3rd, Greenery Day was May 4th, and Children’s Day was May 5th. I decided to take off the last week of April and the first week of May so that I could enjoy a Double Golden Week!

I spent the first half of my Double Golden Week in Hong Kong and the second half in and around Bangkok. But, to get out of my rural town, I first had to take a night bus to Osaka, then take the train for about 90 minutes to get to Kansai International Airport (Nicknamed Kankuu). And from there I flew to Hong Kong.

On the overnight bus to Osaka. At the next bus stop (after the one I got on the bus at), the driver came up to me and asked if I understand Japanese. After I said he, he responded, "oh, good. The bathroom is over there." And then walked away. This left me with an expression resembling this: o.O

Outside Kansai Airport. The airport is to the right and the train station is too the left. I believe the thing overhead is a roadway.

You can see more pictures in the full post. (more…)

May 19, 2011

Riding the Nostalgia Train

Ok, there is no train called “Nostalgia Train,” as far as I know, but I rode one of several trains that run through rural regions of Japan and are meant to be reminiscent of old time-y trains. We were hoping to go on a sunny, spring day, but we had to settle for a rainy day. To me it was more of an overpriced rural train than a nostalgia train, but it was still fun.

The nostalgia train! It costs twice as much as riding the normal train! Yay!

Inside the train. They only use this train for these special "nostalgia train" trips.

The view from the train. We waited until cherry blossom season had started, hoping to see some beautiful scenery, but we hadn't counted on the fact that the train moves farther and farther into the mountains. We saw great scenery pulling out of our local station, but as the altitude got higher and higher, the scenery got browner and uglier. This is near our local station where the scenery was still nice.

When we pulled into one station, this kindergarten class was waiting on the platfom to serenade us and hand us origami tulips through the window. It was adorable.

One of the little kindergateners singing a song about tulips. Did I mention that it was raining that day?

Watching the scenery pass us by through the window with no glass.

Another highlight of the trip is supposed to be hopping off at this station to get water that is said to be so healthy that it will lengthen your life. (Not scientifically proven)

This is a part of one of the most overrated tourist sites ever. It's just a part of a roadway that curves up and loops around by this mountain (the bridge in the picture leads to the loop). The local government is trying to get more people to visit the area so they advertise this road loop as a tourism hot spot. At the loop itself is a small shop and a little art museum, but the loop is very far off the beaten path and the museum is not worth the trek, in my opinion.

May 18, 2011

The Judas Tree at Sugaya Tatara Iron Town

In front of the Takadono, the building housing the last extant Tatara iron furnace, there is a tree. In the winter, the tree is a bare, skeletal eyesore. But during March, leaves slowly begin to appear, and for 2 days in early April, the trees leaves magically turn red, as if the tree itself is on fire. (Shall I call it a tree that burns but is not consumed?) It is called a Katsura tree, also known as a Japanese Judas tree. After the red color fades, the tree turns yellow and then slowly becomes greener and greener throughout the rest of April.

A group of people gathered on the hill that overlooks the town to get a nice view of the tree. Everyone wants to see the tree just as the sun is going down, when it is said to be most spectacular.

The tree glowing red and the takadono that houses the tatara furnace to the right.

The one street that makes up the town, where a score of people still make their homes.

May 17, 2011

Sanouji, a Japan top 100 Terraced-Rice Field

I apologize for the delay in new posts, but I am back from my travels and have many more pictures to post in the coming weeks. I went to Hong Kong and Thailand during my 2 week trip. But I have yet to sort through those photos, so for now I will keep posting some pictures taken in Japan before my trip.

Not too far from the Japan top 100 pond from my previous post, is another Japan top 100, a top 100 terraced-rice field (棚田日本100選). When I visited, it was still barely spring and the lush green that I could probably see in the summer time was still a lazy brown. But it was still very…terraced. I can see why it’s in the top 100!

Several levels of the terraced rice field

These rice field levels are all smushed together

This tree was blooming by the rice fields.

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