Author Topic: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong  (Read 12343 times)

Offline AJK

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Re: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong
« Reply #30 on: July 21, 2013, 12:52:43 PM »
The trip through Aberdeen and Stanley is exquisitely breathtaking. The roads are high up on a cliff with unmatched views of turquoise waters and lush, jungle covered cliff faces. We both sat there alternating between marveling at the sheer beauty of the area and jerking our heads up from dozing off in a jet-lagged stupor. Stanley is a suburb of Hong Kong that has a resort-town vibe with ridiculous views. Aberdeen seems to be another seaside area that has a slightly less affluent feel. The rest of the tour afforded views of a harbor where a certain group of people live on their boats anchored a little offshore, the famous Hong Kong shipping areas and other small towns.





Pulling back up at the ferry dock we dragged our exhausted selves back on a packed Star Ferry boat bound for Kowloon.

Arriving at the Kowloon terminal we grabbed a cab and went back to our hotel where we found our luggage ensconced in a new, larger home on a different floor. However, apparently AJK had worked some pretty strong magic on the staff and within minutes a bellboy knocked on our door to bring us to our third room of the day, a suite aptly named “Fantastic suite” on the 28th floor. [What I do to review all these rooms for you guys, huh? =)]











We quickly settled in and then raced down to catch a shuttle to the Avenue of the Stars for the nightly Symphony of the Lights. Avenue of the Stars is a pretty promenade that affords stunning views of downtown Hong Kong across the harbor with its myriad of towering skyscrapers and bright billboards that give Hong Kong its reputation for a brilliant skyline that rivals (and in my opinion), completely outshines New York.



The nightly light show is a laser and spotlight show that is supposedly coordinated with music. The lasers and spotlights are shone off of the tops of the skyscrapers and some skyscrapers themselves light up while loud music is pumped out of speakers on Avenue of the Stars. 

Click here for a large panoramic of the skyline.

While we found the skyline absolutely beautiful, the music and the lights were underwhelming, and after appreciating it for a little bit we walked towards the Shangri-La hotel and the Mul Hayam restaurant next door. Again, for people who usually spend their vacations eating PB & J with a side of microwavable meals, the opportunity to see a city like Hong Kong and then eat in a genuine restaurant with delicious food is absolutely incredible.



The restaurant is on the top floor of a shopping area and next door to the Kehillat Zion shul, which has minyanim three times a day packed with visiting businessmen. The restaurant has a fancier feel with comfortable, large sofa-type chairs and intimate lighting. We ordered a delicious beef, ghoulash soup, a steak and Citrus chicken along with Vietnamese rice. The food is absolutely delicious, though the portions are smaller than New York standards, but the taste is on par with or even better than some of New York’s nicest restaurants.





We finished up dinner with a wonderful chocolate cake and then got out of there before our faces fell in our Vietnamese rice. We both managed to fall asleep in the eight minute cab ride back to our hotel. However, upon arriving in our room we decided to take full advantage of our time in Hong Kong and run upstairs for a dip in the Jacuzzi and a view of the skyline at night from the 74th floor. We quickly jumped in, appreciated the view and jumped right out and headed down for a much-needed night’s rest.

The next morning dawned too quickly and again completely fog covered. AJK left to daven at KZ and we made plans for me to meet him there for the breakfast that they serve after davening. I joined him at about 8:15 at the restaurant next door to the shul (where we had eaten the night before) and they had put out a spread of made to order omelets, shakshuka, French toast, Israeli salad and coffee, all which were extremely delicious.

We then decided to head over to the Ritz Carlton, which is a two minute walk from our hotel to see a friend of AJK’s who was actually in town at the same time and staying there. The Ritz Carlton is located on the 103rd floor of the third tallest building in the world (by number of floors) and holds the esteemed title of the world’s tallest hotel. Indeed, the hotel is basically in the clouds and, with the fog of the day, you could see nothing from the lobby windows but white.

AJK’s friend met us in the lobby and we went up to see his room which was opulent and luxurious even by Ritz standards. His room, which earns its price tag for the breathtaking views it is supposed to afford of Hong Kong harbor and Hong Kong itself, basically gave you the impression that you were floating amongst the clouds. One could see not a thing out of the windows and it actually made me kind of claustrophobic. The room has floor to ceiling windows, which I am sure is a crazy experience should it be sunny out but with the thick, white, puffy, clouds surrounding you on all sides it felt a little weird. [Luckily for him, the weather cleared up the next day and the hotel earned its price tag.]









We headed back to our hotel to pack up with plans to meet up shortly after and head out together to the glass bottomed cable cars at Ngong Ping which is quite near the airport.
 
We left the W and took the elevator to the station under the hotel where there are actually airport ticket counters where you can not only check-in for your flight but also check your luggage in as well which is absolutely fabulous.  This is inestimably convenient as we were able to take care of checking in as well as get rid of our luggage. The ride to the airport took about 15 minutes and upon arriving, we left the terminal and caught a ten-minute cab ride to the cable cars.

We waited in line and were finally shown to a glass-bottomed cable car for the twenty-minute ride up the side of the mountain. The ride in a glass-bottomed car gives you incredible views of the South China sea, surrounding mountains, villages and the airport where you could see huge A380s on arrival and departure. Even on this foggy day, the view was pretty astounding. I am certain that with the best of weather the ride must be a little nerve-wracking for even the bravest of souls, but with 20-30 mph winds buffeting our little car, I have to admit that I may have felt that I was dishonoring my promise to AJK’s father not to do anything stupid.











2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

Offline Marco Polo

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Re: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong
« Reply #31 on: July 21, 2013, 01:54:23 PM »
Now I am thinking of stopping in HKG on my way to Thailand. Can't wait for the Thailand part of thr TR.
Quaerite et Invenietis.

Offline SavingsBigtime

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Re: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong
« Reply #32 on: July 21, 2013, 02:18:12 PM »
Thanks , unbelievable tr can't wait for the thailand part

Offline damaxer91

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Re: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong
« Reply #33 on: July 21, 2013, 07:56:37 PM »
The restaurant is on the top floor of a shopping area and next door to the Kehillat Zion shul, which has minyanim three times a day packed with visiting businessmen. The restaurant has a fancier feel with comfortable, large sofa-type chairs and intimate lighting. We ordered a delicious beef, ghoulash soup, a steak and Citrus chicken along with Vietnamese rice. The food is absolutely delicious, though the portions are smaller than New York standards, but the taste is on par with or even better than some of New York’s nicest restaurants.


This is what I miss about Hong Kong :(

Particularly the Vietnamese Rice

Fantastic TR BTW

Offline moish

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Re: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong
« Reply #34 on: July 22, 2013, 04:46:27 AM »
This is what I miss about Hong Kong :(

Particularly the Vietnamese Rice

really? i dont remember it being that wonderful. maybe because i was zonked...

Offline damaxer91

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Re: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong
« Reply #35 on: July 22, 2013, 07:46:27 AM »
really? i dont remember it being that wonderful. maybe because i was zonked...

My favorite!

I've had some of the most expensive meals of my life that basically consisted of that one dish (taxi's back and forth from the airport)

Offline AJK

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Re: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong
« Reply #36 on: July 22, 2013, 11:40:45 AM »
Yes, the Vietnamese rice is ahhhmazing.

I sometimes find myself waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweat just thinking about it.
2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

Offline Dan

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Re: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong
« Reply #37 on: July 22, 2013, 11:56:20 AM »
How did I not hear about this rice 3 years ago?
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

Offline moish

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Re: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong
« Reply #38 on: July 22, 2013, 02:28:55 PM »
where does the ferrari dealership come into the tr?

Offline rots5

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Re: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong
« Reply #39 on: July 29, 2013, 03:55:47 PM »
great stuff so far!
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Offline AJK

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Re: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong
« Reply #40 on: July 30, 2013, 11:26:29 PM »
When we arrived at the top of the mountain after a ten minute, steeply perilous ride, we disembarked into a quaint little village. Well, it may have seemed quainter had there not been a Subway, a McDonalds, and a Starbucks.  But, that aside, there were little stores selling fancy decorated chopsticks, opera masks, and tea. A ten minute walk away, passing statues and gorgeous arches, was the big Buddha. What can I say, it was big, but other than that we were not too impressed.





We took a few pictures and walked back through the village for the ride down the mountain. The ride down was even windier than the ride up and I must say that I was quite relieved to find ourselves back at the bottom. We hopped in a cab back to the airport and went to check in for our flight on Dragon Air to Chaing Mai.

[The plane departed from a remote stand, and on our way, we saw a couple of the 'big heavies':





Ahh, one day, one day...]

Anyway, we boarded onto the KA flight.





The flight was a short hour and a half and we were served a Kosher meal within ten minutes of take-off.



We landed in a more developed airport than expected. It seemed small but completely functional and we went through customs and found our luggage with no problems. After exchanging some money, we went to a little taxi kiosk to arrange for a taxi to take us to the La Meridian Chaing Mai. The girl behind the counter handed us a slip of paper with our taxi’s number on it and we went outside to wait for it. Many older, run-down taxis slipped by us, but none with our number on it. Finally, a sleek, new, white SUV pulled up, and a gentleman hopped out and started loading our luggage. We had won the taxi lottery.

The ride to the hotel was short, and along the way we noticed that everyone without exception rides mopeds in Thailand. We passed 100 –year-old grannies, five year old kids and everyone in between racing around on little mopeds, sans helmet of course. The area consists of busy, narrow, crowded streets with people sitting on the curbs cooking their dinners outdoors, mopeds racing around, lots of hotels, tourist companies, shops and massage parlors every two feet.  Pulling up to the La Meridian was a relief, because it was surrounded by plenty of other hotels, motels and hostels that did not look quite like somewhere you would want to stay. AJK took advantage of our luck in landing this car and inquired with the driver if we could book him for the entire day to take us touring. The fact that the driver spoke zero English aside, AJK was successful in conveying that we wanted him to drive us around the next day. We agreed to meet at 8:30 the next morning at the hotel and we hoped that he had agreed as well, but there was no way to tell. [Originally, he asked for 1000 baht, but when I didn’t answer quickly enough, though just because I didn’t really understand him, he lowered it to 800 baht!]

The Le Meridian is a large, glistening and clean building with a beautiful elephant fountain outside.





We walked into the blessedly air-conditioned lobby and checked in. They had upgraded us to an Executive Corner Suite and we quickly went upstairs to check it out. The room was very large with a separate living room, rain shower, Jacuzzi tub and stunning views of Dio Suthep Mountain.









After checking out the room we went downstairs to be picked up by a spa van. The number one reason, possibly the only reason AJK wanted to go to Thailand is due to the fact that you cannot walk more than a foot in Thailand without tripping over somebody offering you a massage for the US dollar equivalent of about five bucks an hour. Even before landing in Chaing Mai, AJK had booked us each a two hour massage at the Cheeva Spa. The spa sends a van to pick you up at your hotel included in the price of your dirt cheap massage. After waiting a little, while we had the concierge call the spa to ensure that they were on their way.  A few minutes later we were picked up by a guy originally from Florida who had moved to Chaing Mai to study Thai massage and now ran the Cheeva spa with his Thai partner.

We were driven back to the hotel where we changed and headed out to try and find the Chabad of Chaing Mai to have some dinner. Thailand is completely unique in the sense that you can be traveling in what feels like the most remote corners of the world and then get back from crocodile wrestling or elephant riding and have a schnitzel for dinner. We set out walking down one of the busy roads of Chaing Mai where a night market was set up.

It seems that each city has a night market that pops up as soon as the sun goes down where locals sell hand crafted arts, jewelry, purses, wallets, belts, t-shirts and more. The main night market in Chaing Mai is inside the city gates on Sunday night, but each night vendors pop open their stalls on crowded sidewalks and try and convince you to part with a few dollars for some souvenirs. If you ask them if they have a different color, version or type of good they will respond with a saying you will get sick of hearing after even a few hours in Thailand, “same, same.”

We walked about fifteen minutes down this street and suddenly saw what every hungry, weary traveler wants to see, Hebrew letters proclaiming Beth Chabad! We entered a square shaped room with tables set up and were quickly greeted by a young thai boy who handed us menus in both Hebrew and English. While I was not so hungry, having just woken up from my massage nap, I chose not to order anything while AJK ordered a plate of Chicken Szeshuan. The chicken was absolutely delicious. (Just because I chose not to order anything, doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to eat what AJK ordered.)







We met a young shaliach from Israel who was staying at the Chabad for a few months helping the Chabad rabbi. Apparently, he has been traveling the world in this way, going from Chabad to Chabad and volunteering for a few months. He gave us a few good tips about things not to miss seeing. Then we started our walk back to the hotel.

We passed a very sad sight of a mother sitting on the sidewalk with her young four or five year old child stretched out on a towel sleeping on the ground. The kid was dressed in just shorts and a t-shirt and was fast asleep on the concrete. Giving the mother a few baht didn’t seem like enough, but her overjoyed face showed how much she appreciated it. When we arrived back at the hotel, I promptly continued my sleep from the massage parlor and AJK began working on his obsession, arranging our flights back in a way that would ensure we were guaranteed a ride in Lufthansa’s NEW first class.
2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

Offline AJK

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Re: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong
« Reply #41 on: July 30, 2013, 11:46:06 PM »
The next morning I proceeded to make us lunch to take with us on the day’s adventures. After not finding any plastic cutlery with which to spread the PB & J we had brought with us, I substituted with using a pair of chopsticks and made two delicious PB & J sandwiches. Somehow, our one-sided conversation with the driver from the night before had worked and he showed up promptly at 8:30. He waited about half an hour while AJK spoke on the phone with some United representatives and somehow convinced them to switch our flights onto the plane of his dreams.

We then jumped in the car and after a brief stop at an ATM, a tourist office, and a phone store for a Thai sim card, we were on our way. We decided to start our day at the Tiger Kingdom, a touristy, yet amazing experience.



The Tiger Kingdom offers people the opportunity to pose and take photographs with tigers ranging from newborn baby cubs, to fully grown, lethal tigers.



After arriving, AJK used every trick in his book to convince me to agree to get into a cage with a tiger whose head was bigger than my entire body. We started off with the small cubs and played with them while a photographer took some adorable shots. We both agreed that if we could bring back one souvenir from Thailand it would be a little cub. (The cub decision was later supplanted with the decision to bring back AJK’s favorite masseuse.)









We then moved onto the medium sized cubs. I was quite happy to stop there, as these 16 month old tigers were about my size but with much sharper teeth. The photographers and keepers have been with these tigers since they were born and obviously were amused by the fact that these stupid tourists seemed frightened of these massive, man-eating creatures.
 
Up next were the biggest tigers. These ones seemed a little more active than the rest of the tigers who were mostly lying down and napping. It’s unfortunate that the one group of tigers who could eat me as a before dinner snack were the ones moving around, fighting and playing with each other and basically making me extremely nervous. We got some incredible pictures with these tigers and then I was quite relieved to leave the cage. While we waited for our pictures to be developed we walked around the park checking out some gorgeous creatures that I was able to appreciate much more from the other side of the fence. 



[I didn't know it at the time, but apparently this one was stalking me, and a few seconds later, one of the trainers bulldozes/tackles me out of the way saying "no, look at him directly in the eye. he "play with you, and you no want that."]

After checking out some of our pictures on the computers that they offer for that purpose at Tiger kingdom, we then hopped back in the car and decided to go check out the Mae Sa Elephant show, about ten minutes away. The area where all the animal shows and tourist attractions are located is called Mae-Rim and it is about twenty minutes from the main part of Chaing Mai. It is extremely convenient as you can just hop from attraction to attraction.

In our case we hopped around with Sunekam, our driver in our air-conditioned car. Having the driver was probably the best decision of the day as were able to cram tons of activities in without wasting time waiting for taxis from place to place. Not to mention the air-conditioning as it was about 90 degrees out with unbelievable levels of humidity.

As we headed towards the Mae Sa Elephant, show we passed a sign for the crocodile farm. Seeing that we had 30 minutes to spare before the elephant show started, we decided to veer off to see some crocodiles for a bit. Pulling into the gravel parking area in front of the ticket hut we noticed that we were the only car there. As we walked up and paid our 200 baht ($6) entry fee, a guy strolled up holding a baby crocodile that he proceeded to hand over to AJK.

After holding and taking pictures with the tiny guy, who mind you still had razor sharp teeth and a rubber band around his jaw to protect the Americans, we proceeded in to go catch the show. The thing about this area of Thailand, and most of Thailand, is that tourism is their main source of income. So when two tourists show up and pay a few dollars to come see a show, the show must go on! Never mind that we were the only two people there. Never mind that a teenage Thai boy was going to put his life in danger for a measly crowd of two.

We settled into our wooden bench as the crocodile “trainer,” walked out. I use that term loosely due to the fact that these are basically mean, lean, eating machines and a little man with a stick looks more like a snack to these guys than a trainer.  The stage was basically a large pool with about ten large crocodiles in it, and an area next to the pool with about five more.



 The trainer proceeded to basically annoy the crocodiles by pulling them out of the water by their tails, picking one of them up, dragging them around the stage and then he culminated by sticking various body parts of his into the gaping jaws of the largest crocodile.











He had a little stick that he would tap the crocodile on the mouth with and then when the jaws opened he would tap around the inside of his mouth, desperately trying to look professional and like all this tapping would maybe allow him to see another day. All the tapping is supposedly to make the crocodile less sensitive or something like that…still unclear on that part. After about ten minutes of doing absurdly foolish things with crocodiles, the official part of the show ended.

At this point, he inquired whether either of us would like to come around to the area with all the crocodiles lying around and sit on the back of a crocodile. We both laughed uneasily and began to walk away. He called us back and told us that he was very serious. For the USD equivalent of 2 bucks we could sit on the back of a 12 foot long man-eating crocodile. Somehow, really not sure how, I let AJK agree to this ridiculous suggestion. Sidenote: what I learned in Thailand is, just because it is offered to you doesn’t mean you should agree. And, that they don’t seem all that concerned with your life. Sidebar over.

Here is where anyone who gave birth to either AJK or I should stop reading. While I watched from the other side of the fence, AJK proceeded to walk around into the crocodile enclosure. He gingerly walked past about ten lounging beasts and very carefully approached the largest one that the trainer was gesturing towards. The trainer proceeded to tell AJK to carefully put a leg on either side of the crocodile and then lower himself to a sitting position. I’m not sure why I watched this part; I probably should have looked away just in case. With AJK sitting on the back of a ferocious, violent animal you would think that the trainer would stand at the ready with his ridiculous stick in case the crocodile chose to make a sudden move, such as eating my husband for dinner.

However, that was not the case at all as he lay down his stick and offered to take pictures for AJK. Thankfully, as soon as AJK got a few good pictures he got up off the crocodile (faster than he had gotten on, I might add) and proceeded to get out onto the other side of the enclosure as quickly as he could. I decided at that point it was time to leave, before they offered to allow us to feel what it felt like to have your hand bitten by a crocodile. Who knows, seeing what AJK had just done we might have agreed.

2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

Offline rots5

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Re: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong
« Reply #42 on: July 31, 2013, 01:18:23 AM »
mrs ajk, i gotta say, your write a great report.

being that i just got back from the same trip, i know exactly everything ur writing about and its written so well! kol hakavode! loving it.

and i know that mother with her kid on sleeping at the corner. so sad looking. not sure where she is all day, but she pops up there at 8 ish every night. a very scary and sad sight to see.
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Offline chuchem

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Re: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong
« Reply #43 on: July 31, 2013, 02:08:29 AM »
Nice tr
Going to the Tiger kingdom phuket tomorrow. Will report back

Can someone explain me why visiting and taking Pictures of a big buddah is not avoide zore?

Offline rots5

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Re: Southeast Asia with a Splash of Hong Kong
« Reply #44 on: July 31, 2013, 02:09:26 AM »
Nice tr
Going to the Tiger kingdom phuket tomorrow. Will report back

Can someone explain me why visiting and taking Pictures of a big buddah is not avoide zore?
i had the same q
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