Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bali - Day 2

We arrived!!! Bali our second destination in as many days. We flew into to Bali rather late maybe around midnight. The weather in Hong Kong delayed us a bit. We were happy it started to rain after we left the city but not so happy to be flying in it. Luckily we did not experience any problems. When we got off the plane we made our way to immigration where we had to stand in line for like an hour and a half. Way too long. Of course we just so happened to be next to a family of Koreans and just had to laugh, thinking we just can't even get away from Korea for a day. Anyway once to the front of the line we got our visas and stamp and made our way to the taxi line. We had the address of our hotel and they new where it was, thankfully. It was about a ten minute ride and we were there. It only cost around five dollars.
Our hotel was relatively new and looked nice on the outside. It was called Tune Hotel. Once we stepped into the room it felt as if we were in a closet, a really small one. Latanya's claustrophobia kicked in immediately. I had to assure her it would be doable. We knew it was a small space when we booked it but also knew that it was only for a two nights. She handled it quite well I must say.
The next morning we woke up and headed straight for the beach. We realized right away that Kuta, the area we were staying was everything we had read was. It's a backpackers and surfers haven. It was not a place for resort style relaxing. The streets were relatively dirty yet the people were friendly. On the way to the beach we past many stalls selling you name it. They all asked if we wanted to buy something and we kindly said no thank you. This would be a phrase we would be repeating for the rest of our trip.
After about a five minute walk we arrived to the beach. It was a beautiful sight. We normally don't go this long without going to the beach. It had been over five months. I was starting to look too pale and even sickly (take a look at the picture in the Vacation Overview post, you will know what I mean). The Kuta beach was really long and wide. The sand was nice and the water looked very inviting. It really reminded us of beaches in Southern California. Except instead of the Pacific Ocean we were starring at the Indian Ocean. We walked the beach for a little while and then stopped at a convenience store for some water and free WiFi. We got a message from our friends Jess and Fran. So we messaged them back and decided to meet them a little later on.
Latanya and I were sharing a coffee when Fran came walking up. We were so excited to see him. Jess was just around the corner we were equally excited to see her too. Jess and Fran were our neighbors in Korea and had been traveling since they left in June. It was great just sitting and catching up. Jess had hurt her foot in Cambodia and had her pinkie toe and ankle wrapped in gauze. So now Latanya had a companion because of her swollen foot. Unfortunately Jess was not able to go into the water or on the sand at this point of their Bali trip.
After awhile of talking we all took a stroll to see a monument. We then headed for some dinner and a drink. It was a great meal and we got to hear all about what our friends had been experiencing. After dinner they took us to their hotel and then headed to Sanur, another area on the island via taxi. They had no accommodation booked and were getting a little nervous because most places were booked due to it being the high tourist season.
Once we departed, Latanya and I went back to the beach and took in a magnificent sunset. Much like ours back home it was truly amazing. The colors were spectacular and the ambiance was perfect. Latanya and I just sat on the beach until it went dark. Once the sun goes down the Kuta area really gets started. The bars and clubs really started to pump. We decided to just hit up a bar for happy hour and relaxed. I had a few Bintangs, an Indonesian beer and Latayna a few watered down cocktails. We called it an early evening and headed back to our closet for one more night. I wanted to get a good night's rest because tomorrow I was going to surf!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hong Kong- Day 1

Dan N Tan took off from Korea to Hong Kong around 8pm on a Wednesday. We had originally planned to stay in a budget hotel in the Kowloon district of Hong Kong for the night but then decided to just sleep at the airport instead. We only had a day in Hong Kong and then we would be off to Bali. We have slept in an airport before (BKK) and knew that this airport was really nice. We later not regret this decision.
So our plane arrived around midnight and we found that the airport was in fact really nice. The architecture was wonderful and inviting. We did a little exploring and then found a nice quite spot with nobody around and made camp. Because the benches have dividers between the seats we were forced to sleep on the ground. It was not difficult for us to do, seeing as our bed in Korea is just as hard as the floor. We used our backpacks as pillows and Latanya used her vacuum safe bag for a bed. That's right Latanya was traveling with a vacuum safe bag in her backpack. A brilliant idea for space, however not ideal for weight on your back.
After our wonderful sleep, kind of, we awoke around 5:30am to find that Latanya had been bitten several times by mosquitoes. Including at least five bites on her ankle alone. Latanya usually has an allergic reaction to mosquito bites so we knew this was not going to be good. We had no idea that we were going to have a mosquito attack in the airport. I guess it's just Latanya's sweet blood that attracts them from far and wide.
So after our shocking discovery we freshened up and got dressed for the day. Our first task was to store our heavy backpacks for the day. We first went to the electronic lockers and found out that you can only gain access to the lockers during certain hours. How stupid is that? So next we tried left luggage and they wanted us to pay $40 for three bags for the day. What, are you crazy! 40 bucks to let are bags sit in a storage room, yeah right. Luckily the night before we were looking into a spa lounge in the airport that also stores luggage. It was much cheaper at $20 but still not cheap enough for me. The lockers were $8 and we paid $5 in Bangkok last year. Oh well, at least it wasn't 40.
Our next task was to get to the center of the city. It was really easy. We went to the counter that said express train to the city, bought two round trip tickets and hopped on the train. The train was really nice and went relatively fast. It took about 25 minutes and we were at Hong Kong Station. A bus would have been cheaper but we wanted to get there faster and not waste any time.
We had a short list of sites we wanted to see and wanted to make the most of our day. We first made our way to Central Station, a main hub, and transfered to another subway line to go a few stops. The Hong Kong subway was easy to ride, functional, clean and efficient. Once we arrived at our destination we walked towards Victoria Harbor and this is when we realized the humidity. It was their monsoon season and we sure could feel it. Luckily we had very little to no rain our entire time in HK. Our walk was nice. It was still earlier in the morning and we saw people either going in early to the office or older people doing their Tai Chi or reading the morning paper. We arrived at our first site. It was a monument named the Forever Blooming Bauhinia Sculpture, which was a gift from China to Hong Kong. The sculpture was basically a golden flower. It was really beautiful. Every morning they have a flag raising ceremony, but because of the luggage situation we were too late. Nearby was another monument representing the reuniting of Hong Kong back to China in 1997. It was really nice to walk along the harbor for a bit and enjoy the morning. It's amazing how quite a city of many millions can be. We were looking out to the other side of the harbor where the mainland is. We were currently on the island of Hong Kong. We were starting to get hungry so we decided to head towards an epic restaurant that is said to serve some amazing Dim Sum. Since we were not in hurry we decided to walk there and explore the downtown some.
We were so impressed with the city center and how nice it was. It was really refreshing to see some actual innovative and inspiring architecture, complete opposite of Seoul. Latanya had to get use to crossing the street and looking the opposite way for traffic. The concept was not easy to get at first, but thankfully on the pavement they had in English, Look Left or Look Right. Our leisure walk took us the distance of about four or five subway stops. We saw the IFC mall which we would go through later. We were able to walk along the walkways that are built above the streets to help ease congestion on the roads. The walkways were super convenient and made you feel less crowded than being on a busy street with people and cars to deal with.
After asking someone how to get to a little tiny street the restaurant is on we finally arrived. At this point we were more than a little hungry. From the outside the place did not look to big. But once we walked in and up the stairs we found a mess hall of about 200 Chinese people, imagine that. We were the only foreigners in the place and all of a sudden we were center stage. Everyone looked at us, it seemed all at once too. We didn't mind in the least, we were used to it by now. By seeing the all the locals and the busyness we knew the food had to be great. We found an open spot near the back and sat down. Our waiter was very nice and told us the table was reserved for a party in about 40 minutes. He said we could sit there as long as we left by that time, we said sure. He brought over some dishes and Jasmine tea along with a dumpling with sausage in the middle and a giant leaf that was wrapped around steamed rice with chicken. Thus far, amazing. We discovered that the food was brought to you on little carts with little old ladies giving you the food from their individual cart. Each cart was different. Some had soups, others dumplings, and some even with chicken feet. All you could ask for, right? You basically picked and chose what you wanted. They would ask you if you wanted it and you said yes or no and they would stamp your bill if you said yes and serve you the dish. We were looking out for the Dim Sum cart. She finally arrived after a few minutes. They were BBQ Buns. Wow, let me tell you they were the most amazing Chinese food I had ever tasted. So delicious. Not only were they huge, the flavor was phenomenal. After our buns it was about time to pay the bill and let them get the table ready for the party. We made sure to get some more Dim Sum to go, for later.
After our amazing brunch we headed towards Victoria's Peak. The peak offers a skyline view of Hong Kong island, the harbor and the main land. In order to get the peak you have to get tickets for a tram that goes up the incredibly steep hillside. We also got tickets to the sky view tower hoping to get an amazing view. As we climbed higher and higher on our tram the city started to disappear. It was then when decided to look up and noticed the thick clouds surrounding the peak. We were still optimistic about our amazing view at the top and hoped we could still see a glimpse of the city. Once to the top of the tower we realized we couldn't see anything. We were disappointed but couldn't help but laugh. In stead of just taking a fogging picture we also opted for a cheesy superimposed photo of the city behind us. And of course when we descended, after eating our Dim Sum to go, we noticed the sky was clearing up. Talk about timing.
Once to the bottom we decided to head to the mainland and check out the Kowloon area. We then relaxed in the Kowloon park, in the shade. It was a really nice area, the park that is. Once we left the park it was not the nicest neighborhood. It was weird, because not even a block away they have all the expensive designer stores such as, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Channel etc. and then close by there were the Chungking Mansions which are tall run down buildings with sketchy looking guys selling knockoffs and you name its. By the way this is where we were going to stay had we gotten a hotel for the night. Latanya was happier with her mosquito bites then having to stay there, that's how bad it looked.
After the mansions we had an appetizer at Outback and then made our way to the harbor. We had a really nice view of Hong Kong island from there. We then had to make our way back to the airport to catch our flight at 7pm to Bali. We got to the airport via the express train again. We were delighted to find our bags safe and sound. Latanya's ankle had ballooned up after all the walking. At this point we just hoped that the swelling would go down for her to go surfing in Kuta. After some medication application we hoped on our plane and headed for our next destination, Bali the Island of the Gods!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Vacation Overview

Dan N Tan just got back from an amazing vacation that included Hong Kong, China and Bali, Indonesia. We were gone for about eleven days and had a blast. We met up with our former neighbors in Korea, Jess and Fran. They have been traveling southeast Asia since they left Korea and just so happened to be in Bali at the same time. It was great to hear all about their travels as well as experience some new adventures on the island. Basically the posts that will follow will be my best attempt to put into words our trip. Bare in mind I love to go on tangents so I will try not to make the posts too long, but I can't promise anything. Basically, our trip consists of: exploring the big city, having great food, meeting up with great friends, talking to the locals, surfing some sweet waves, relaxing on the beach, exploring some of the culture, seeing an epic sunrise and sunset, buying souvenirs, and of course enjoying each other's company, plus much much more. Stay tuned.