We made it home from Thailand on a Thursday night, and after a blur of a weekend setting up our new house (which I will post about separately), I was off again to meet one of my most treasured friends in HK for a few days.
I left Monday morning by ferry, and little did I know there was a typhoon heading straight for our area. I caught one of the last ferries out that day and met up with Liann at our hotel in Soho around noon.
I met Liann in middle school, we were in the same group of friends but we became close friends when we went on a Hands Across the Border exchange in Mexico during our 7th grade year. (Basically you spend a few days living with a family there and then the student comes to live with you). She’s a blast; funny and outgoing, curious and adventurous, but also reflective and concerned. She’s always been an avid traveler, and her time with me was sandwiched between two other trips, one to Vietnam, and another to Beijing. She’s been living in the DC area now for 6 years, and I hadn’t been in touch with her regularly. We last saw each other at our high school reunion about 4 years ago, and a lot has changed for her (and me!), so I was happy to get reconnected with her.
Anyway, we fell in like old times and after checking into our hotel, we decided to do some exploring around the Mong Kok area of HK. Our goal was to get to the Jade Market, which we did! It was super cool to see all the jade pieces, and empty because everybody was out preparing for the coming typhoon. We shopped and had fun haggling prices for jade jewelry. It was especially fun to banter with a woman named Sandy who was selling pearls. She was really funny, and we settled on a price that was appealing to both us and her. We explored a nearby temple, which again was empty due to the impending weather. From there I tried to take her to a craft beer place, but when we finally found it (we walked about a mile out of the way), it was closed! So frustrating, so we decided to head back to the hotel and regroup. We researched and found a yummy ramen restaurant, she had lemon chicken ramen! It was delish, then headed over to a bar that was recommended by a friend of hers who used to live in Soho. After a few cocktails, we headed back and chatted until the early hours of the morning. So. much. fun.
Typhoon Nida snuck in overnight, so we woke to a very stormy view on Tuesday morning. We lounged around, ate a leisurely breakfast and planned Liann’s next leg of her trip. By midday, the worst of the typhoon was over, and the rain was light so we decided to go hiking up to The Peak. I’ve been to The Peak 2-3 times before, but never attempted to hike up there. It was a steep hike! There was some debris from the storm and it was very humid, but we made it! The view never ceases to amaze me, but it was super windy so we didn’t stay too long. We headed back down to Central in pursuit of some famous Dim Sum.
The Dim Sum place we wanted to go to was shut down due to the storm, so we had some at the place next door. Super yummy soup and dumplings! From there we headed across the water on the Star Ferry to explore Kowloon for a little while. We asked a shopkeeper for a good recommendation for drinks and enjoyed happy hour at a Thai place while we waited for the light show that comes on nightly at 8pm. The light show was a little disappointing, but definitely something to witness. We went home after that, too tired to go out on the town.
On Wednesday, we took our time getting up again and having breakfast before heading out to Lantau Island to take the cable car up to the Big Buddha. It’s really not that far from the city, just a station past Disneyland. That area is so green and wild compared to Hong Kong or Kowloon and we had planned to do some hiking around there. The weather was still kind of iffy, windy and some rain, so we opted for the cable car up to the Buddha, then hike around up there once we got there. The cable car ride was awesome! Until we made it over a big hill and right into a storm, haha. I had a small panic attack while Liann marveled at the view.
The rain was coming down pretty hard when we got to the top, but after purchasing an overpriced poncho, Liann and I were ready to see the Monastery and the Big Buddha. We walked through the little tourist village of Nyong Ping and up to the Monastery first to get out of the rain. It was beautiful, especially the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas (which I snuck a picture of even though we’re not supposed to). The rain had subsided so we hiked up the steps to the base of the Buddha and explored around the statue. It’s a beautiful statue, and there is an actual Buddha relic inside, so that was really neat to see. Again, it wasn’t crowded because of the poor weather, so we had the benefit of no hot sun and less people! We climbed down the steps and wandered down some hiking trails before turning back to get a snack before the ride back down. The ride down was much less scary, aside from a few strong wind gusts.
We made it back to the hotel, and I took a nap while Liann went for a massage. When she got back, we rushed down to HK brewcraft to get some brew supplies for the following week. Then we showered and headed out for our last night in HK. We went to the Brew Dog bar in Central, hoping for some good craft brew and food, but they literally had no beer on tap. (Strike 2, Brew Dog) So we went up to Donnie and I’s favorite BBQ and beer restaurant for dinner and another beer. It was good, a taste of home and afterwards we were both ready to get some sleep. It is pretty exhausting traipsing around HK in the humid weather. But I have to say we got a lot accomplished!
Thursday morning, we woke up slowly again, before packing up, eating and walking down to the ferry. We were back in Shenzhen by lunch time, and walked into an empty house. Donnie was at work, and Amy had taken Paul out for the day because the house had been sprayed for bugs. The smell was giving us a headache too, so we went out for a tour of my neighborhood, Shekou. It was rainy, but fun to point out all our spots. The bay for running, Taps for beer, Walmart, Decathalon (where Liann got a snazzy new rain jacket), the wet market, then back for Muslim noodles at the spot across from school. I felt pretty proud of my little corner of the world, and she seemed to like it. From there we took our soggy selves back home and rested for the rest of the evening, chilling out with some wine and pizza and American TV. Liann was kind enough to watch Paul while Donnie and I went to greet my friend Callie, who was arriving from the States to live here! It was awesome to get to escort Callie to her new place and settle her in on her first night.
Friday was a day of making. We started the morning learning how to make dumplings from my ayi, Amy. She was very patient with us. The whole process takes about 2-3 hours, and it’s not easy! So cool to see the process though, I hope that I’ll be able to make them with ease by the time I leave China (I think I have lots of time to master it). After that, we did a quick shopping trip to pick up some treats for Liann to share when she gets home and then a stop to pick up some beer because we were having a beer making party that night!
Our friends Billy, Lindsey (and their son Luke), Callie, Liann, Amanda (Soccer and now QSI friend) and her BF, and Donnie and I all started the brewing process together. It was our first batch with our new equipment! We were excited to be upping our capacity to 10 gallons in one brew session, with bigger pots, a new burner, a plate chiller, and a brand new fancy fermenter. All was going relatively smoothly, until we reached the chilling stage. By that time the brewing party had dwindled to just Donnie, Liann and I and we were all pretty tired. It took all of our brain power to finish up the brew session, and we ended up just leaving the wort to cool overnight and added the yeast in the morning. I have to say that without Liann’s help, I’m not sure Donnie and I could have finished. But now the beer is happily bubbling away in the fermenter. I wish Liann could be around to taste her handiwork.
Saturday and Sunday were shopping days. On Saturday afternoon we rode the metro out to the LCC, our favorite bargaining place. We bought all kinds of things we didn’t need, sunglasses, speakers, phone cases, purses, but it was all fun. Considering all the things we got, we didn’t spend too much money. We capped the day off by having some frozen yogurt in Seaworld at a place called TuttiFrutti. It’s a place she loves to go to in DC, so it was nice to be introduced (and dangerous too!).
Sunday we met up with Callie and took the long ride out to Dafen. I told them the story of how we got our art home when we first moved there. I’ve been to Dafen 4-5 times now, and I love going with people who haven’t seen it. It was hot and humid and I got a little sun sick. But we had fun picking out pieces for Liann and Callie’s new apartments. I got some old posters framed. We had some yummy bubble tea and then made the long ride home. It was a productive day, but way too hot.
Monday was Liann’s last day in Shenzhen so we braved the extreme heat (Real Feel 117 degrees) and went to explore Splendid China. This tourist attraction is a place where you can see all the wonders of China in miniature. Mini Great Wall, mini Forbidden City, mini Terra Cotta warriors….over 80 of them. The other part of the park is sectioned off into villages of indigenous Chinese people, with traditional crafts and dances and things (kind of like a pioneer farm). We wandered around the minis, taking pics and pretending to be giants, stopping for ice cream and water breaks. Then had some lunch that was of questionable quality, but we ate anyway. Then took a tram that looked like a train around to see the rest of the park. I felt like we got our money’s worth. It was too unbearable to stay out any longer, so we made our way home via metro with another pit stop at TuttiFrutti. We tried to make a push to have dinner before Liann had to go to the airport, but I was just too tired from the day in the sun. So we lounged around until I walked Liann out to her cab to start the next leg of her journey.
I hope it’s not another 4 years before I get to hangout with Liann again. I really enjoyed our time together and her perspective on life is refreshing. She’s starting a new chapter and I can’t wait to hear all the details! 🙂 See you soon, Liann!
I have one more post to write before school starts, but I’m pressed for time and starting to feel stress from the impending start of the school year. But more on that later.
Love to all, J.