Hong Kong Trip 1/24-1/29
Something about the idea of flying gets me so excited, is it the thought of leaving a familiar place to venture out into a new and uncertain area? Or is it that split moment when the airplane takes off from the runway and you feel your whole seat trembling? For me, its everything. That morning I woke up thinking “Wow. This is it!” My good friend, Clara had slept over the two nights before but we managed to give the extra mattress back to my friend Bri, which was so nicely worked out. Afterwards, we met up with Naoyuki to share the cab to the airport, Yuki was flying back to Japan a few hours before our flight. When we got to Terminal 3 we checked in with Yuki and decided to have lunch together. There was this Thai Restaurant on the upper level that immediately caught my eye so we went for it, ended up being really delicious! It was kinda sad saying farewell to Yuki, I know he’ll be back for Spring semester but I somehow felt that it will be different without everyone in a group together again. When he left, Clara my roommate Elina and I made our way to Terminal 2 perfectly in time for our flight to Shanghai. We arrived a little after 6pm and had a scrumptuous dinner with Sean on our pit stop. After a sweet farewell we were on our way to Hong Kong. When we finally arrived at the Hong Kong International Airport it was already 2 in the morning! So, after grabbing some quick tourist maps of the city we got into one of the cabs lined up outside. First off, it was one of the most spacious cabs I have ever been in..in my entire life! I think New York also has the 5-seat cabs, but the Hong Kong ones were just out of this world! Definitely one of the most comfortable rides I’ve ever had (: Our taxi driver was also quite nice and I almost spoke in Mandarin to him (twice) but his English was fabulous, not to mention he managed to teach us a few Cantonese phrases for bargaining :D When we arrived at The Regal Kowloon Hotel, I was sooooo exxcitedd! I couldn’t believe we had finally arrived in this marvelous city. As we took the elevator to the 12th floor and opened the door to our new room, it was breathtakingly beautiful. A huge king-sized bed, two couches, a desk and a bathtub! You may think bathtubs aren’t so uncommon right? But living in Beijing, I’ve come to realize what a blessing it is to have a bathtub! Our showers aren’t exactly the best nor are we capable of taking baths so the first thing I did was enjoy a nice a long bath ! We also bought some sparkling apple cider to celebrate our arrival!
The next day we got to walk around and see the harbor right next to our hotel, literally a 2 minute walk away. Such a beautiful skyline even during the day! The warm weather was such a blast after leaving the icy cold Beijing weather behind us. Finally being able to breathe in fresh air from the ocean was such a relief. We walked around Kowloon and Tsim Sha Tsui and got a feel for the area. And then we happened to run into The Hong Kong Art Museum, which was showing a whole exhibition of Andy Warhol’s artworks! Guess how much the tickets were? Only $10HKD!! Which is barely $2 in USD. Isn’t that cool?? The next day we decided we wanted to check out the “Big Bus Tour” so we headed over to buy tickets and got to jump on one of the tours that was passing by. I really enjoyed riding on the top of the bus because there was no roof and I always see those tour buses in San Francisco and a part of me really wanted to try it some day. So there I was being a full on tourist :D It was a great way to be able to see the whole city in the fastest, most convenient way possible. Later on that day, we took the subway to the Ladies Market in Mongkok. The Ladies Market is basically this whole stretch of stalls that sell clothes, trinkets, souvenirs, electronics, bags, watches and accessories (almost anything you could imagine buying) at the most cheapest prices. After spending about 3 full hours of shopping and walking, Elina wanted to try some Indian food so we stopped over at a small Indian restaurant near the Market. It wasn’t really that good, but at least we got to try it out. After it started drizzling more, we decided to head back home. The third day, we were going to meet up with my friend Sylwia but we had no WIFI access so that didn’t work out. And when my two friends from USF, Kim and Kamal were saying we could meet up and go to The Victorian Peak on the Hong Kong Island I thought that we would definitely be able to meet up, but the whole WIFI thing ended up being an issue as well. Not to mention, we forgot our cell phones from Beijing wouldn’t be able to work in Hong Kong or Macau. But in the end it was kind of nice being up at The Peak, seeing the really nice views without worrying about internet or having to contact people. I really felt like I could really enjoy the moment. The next day, Clara flew into Hong Kong! She actually was just stopping over on her way back home to Singapore but it was really nice because she got to stay with us one night (: So the last day, Clara and I walked around on Nathan Road and Tsim Sha Tsui area to go shopping and check out one Clara’s favorite restaurants in Hong Kong. Later on, we caught the Light Show of the Hong Kong skyline which was pretty fun - they play music and have these lights projecting off the major buildings that synchronize with the beat. The next morning we checked out of our hotel around 9am and headed to the bus stop on our way back the airport. Said our goodbyes to Clara, and off we were…back to Beijing :P
Singapore Trip 2/2-2/6
After arriving back in Beijing from Hong Kong, a few days went by and Elina and I were getting ready for our trip to Singapore! Quite exciting be able to travel so much all of a sudden, but it was great how perfectly it was working out :D After flying so much the last time to Hong Kong (first time we stopped in Shanghai on our way there, and on our way back to Beijing we stopped in a city called Ningbo…so lots of running around haha) we got pretty used to going through the different security and immigration authorities. When we arrived in Singapore, it was about 6 in the morning and Clara was already waiting for us at the arrival gate. I was soooooo hot already! The humidity was pouring into the airport and all I could think about was “Why on earth am I wearing my North Face jacket still?” Hahah, it was really sweet when I saw Clara waiting for us, she even offered to pick us up and give us a ride to her house. Even though it was pretty dark when we arrived, I immediately could see how clean and organized Singapore is! The trees were also really beautiful, something about their trees really sparked my interest. When Clara drove into the parking lot near her apartment, I knew this place was going to be spectacular! I don’t know why but sometimes I see numbers and I think there has to be some cool coincidence or lucky chance that it relates everything together. When we got into the elevator, and Clara pressed the number 7 button, I suddenly thought of how in Beijing our dorm room is on the 7th floor and when we stayed in Hong Kong our hotel room was on the 12th floor. Both Clara and my birthday are on the same day, July 12th and I just thought how funny it was that she also lives on the 7th floor. Haha, okay yeah I’m definitely weird! Anyways, Clara’s place was so exquisite. The first thing that greeted us at the door was Clara’s sweet little French bulldog, Kimi. When we settled in, I took a quick shower and felt immediately at home. The sun was just starting to come up, and I could see that there was a nice balcony right near the dining room. When I opened the sliding door to the view of her amazing pool, I had to stop myself from screaming in joy! Being at her place literally felt like I was living at a resort. Palm trees everywhere, a huge pool, humid weather with a slight breeze from the morning chill. It was perfect, it was exactly what I needed. We all were pretty exhausted from the flight so we took a nap, and by the time I woke up I could hear a familiar voice down the hall. Of course, it could only be one person, Bert! Even though I was half awake, I knew we were all going to have a great time since we could all be together again! The Three Musketeers :D Also, we all got to meet Clara’s really sweet family, her parents and two brothers. All of which are exactly like Clara! Very outgoing, warm-hearted, business-orientated and intellectual personalities! The first day, Clara took us to the main shopping malls, art theater called the Esplanade which actually looks like a durian (the fruit that smells really bad haha). After which we walked around the Singapore skyline and took pictures of the beautiful scenery, we then had a nice dinner together. The next day we went to check out Chinatown and Little India, which are both popular among the Chinese, Indians and Malaysians that live in Singapore. It’s also pretty cool when riding the public transportation in Singapore because they use four different languages, English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay and Tamil. Whereas in San Francisco, its usually just English, Spanish and Cantonese (not that I don’t appreciate those languages, but it felt pretty exciting hearing Malay and Tamil for the first time). When we were exploring the streets of Chinatown, guess what we came across? None other than a Tintin Muesum! No way right? It was soooo incredible! They had all the books of the Tintin series (both in French and in English), also t-shirts, posters, postcards, and little figurines all the characters! When we got back to Clara’s place, we relaxed for a little and then made our way to the Night Safari which was about a 40 minute drive. When we got there, we were first going to go on the actual safari but we noticed that there was going to be a Fire Dance Performance in 20 minutes so we went and checked out one of the trails instead. The first trail was a little hard to see because how dark it had become but it was really thrilling! The animals were all so close to us on the pathway, all that was between us and them were these tiny little ropes stringed together. When we got closer to the end of the trail, we were walking over this small wooden bridge and I saw something move in the water below us. “What is that?!” I screamed. Of course, just a gang of alligators relaxing in the water…about 2 feet away from us. I couldn’t believe how open the zoo was! When I was finally done freaking out about the alligators we walked over the stage area to await the Fire Performance. The tribal music began to ascend, and these three guys came out with sticks and started to dance while spitting fire out of their mouths! I’ve seen things like that before, but not so close up and personal! After about a few minutes of their act, one of the guys started walking around closer to the audience. When he approached the area closest to me, I thought “Oh yes, pick the little boy in front of me - I’m sure he’ll have a kick out of this!” But nooooo, instead for some crazy reason the guy grabbed me! I was so shocked, but he just held onto my hand and told me to follow him. After climbing up the rocks to the top of the stage he told me stop and then some of the other guys introduced themselves and asked where I was from. They all were really sweet, but also a bit funny how they weren’t really wearing any clothes! When one of the guys came towards me with a balloon and explained that I would be using his little blow-dart weapons to hit the balloon - I felt so relieved! I was a bit worried that they were going to ask me to blow fire out of my mouth or something worse! So one of the guys put the balloon between his legs and told me to blow from the blow-dart at the balloon, what do you know - I didn’t miss :P After that, we went and watched another show then headed on the safari. It was really cool being that close to all the animals, and without any glass or fences. From lions to elephants, giraffes to rhinos, we saw about everything! The last day in Singapore, Clara took us to the beach - it wasn’t the sunniest day, but it was still fun playing in the tropical warm water and I even met some nice guys that were there as well! After that Clara showed us a place where they serve the best laska (it’s a famous dish in Singapore) and durian baked goods.
For our break time at Clara’s place, despite the rain, Elina and I went for a dip in the pool. It was magical! The combination of the tropical rain and swimming was the cherry on top of my afternoon, we even had time for the jacuzzi (which has these workout machines inside the water!) and steam room! Then we accompanied Bert when he bought his Lord of the Rings map from this really cool movie store in the Esplanade. And for the last meal in Singapore, Clara treated us all to a local Singaporean feast! Everything was beyond delectable!
Malaysia Trip 2/6-2/9
On the morning of February 6th, we all woke up around 5 in the morning to get ready for our flight to Malaysia. Clara’s dad was so nice, he even took us to the airport. The flight to Kaula Lumpur, Malaysia from Singapore only took an hour and fifteen minutes, can you believe it?! Everyone fell asleep instantly on the plane, but I couldn’t so I ended up taking a bunch of pictures of the islands we were flying over. Which was just as satisfying (: When we got to Malaysia, it was 8 in the morning and the day had just begun! We got a taxi to the Capitol Hotel (where Clara made reservations, she’s the best planner ever!) and got two bedrooms. The first day we explored the area around our hotel, it was nicely located near one of the major shopping malls and hang out areas in Kaula Lumpur. Being in Malaysia, my first impression was how similar to India it felt but also the Islamic influence. Somehow, I had forgotten that Malaysia was a Muslim country so I admit, I was a bit surprised to be around so many Islamic followers - it was a great experience. Although, I wish I had brought more clothes to cover my legs and arms (it was just so hot, I couldn’t imagine wearing anything more than a dress, some shorts or a t-shirt). I really liked all the culture in Malaysia, I’ve never seen so many Arabic restaurants lined up on the corner which was also adjacent to Chinatown, then a bit further down the street were some Indian and Malay cuisine. Before going to Malaysia, I had never really had Malaysian food before so we all went out for lunch to try it out. Then later that night we went to one of the Arabic lounges to enjoy a free performance from one of the street dancers who would come by some of the bars and restaurants to dance along with the Arabic music, he was fabulous! The next day, we all went out to go shopping and take pictures next to the Twin Towers which is one of Kuala Lumpur’s major sightseeing landmarks. That night we also went to watch a few movies and had a fun time “almost” sneaking into one of the Gold Member rooms, they have their own lazy boy chairs ! The last day in Kuala Lumpur we all did some more last minute shopping and got to wander the streets a bit, kind of a bitter sweet day knowing that it was our last day together. I had also just found out back in Singapore, that Clara wouldn’t be coming back to Beijing Spring semester because she would start working. And Bert was going back to the Philippines to continue his job searching. The next morning, we all headed over to the airport, and this time it was Elina and I there were leaving first. We said our farewells, and there we were again back on a plane. A few hours later, we arrived in Beijing once more but this time I felt really complete. The I time spent in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia really made me grateful for having the opportunity to travel and especially with friends. It was exactly what I needed for my Winter Break!
Last but not least, I wouldn’t have been able to go to all these wonderful places if it weren’t for my family - especially Nakula, Vrindaban, Chaitanya and my parents for giving me the expenses needed to make it happen. Love you all so much <3 And thank you Clara, for letting us all stay at your wonderful abode, absolutely stunning!