Exploring Hong Kong

After our recent 3 days in Shanghai, we just wanted to just relax in the local community and get a feel of the atmosphere. Is it a safe city or do we need to be concerned about protests?

We had some dinner in the Circle Center community center (part of Elements mall) outside our hotel and the high rise condos around us. We also listened to the World Cup Rugby game with the locals who were shocked when South Africa defeated England.

Afterwards, we took an Uber (yes they have Uber here) to check out the famous night market. It was a very active and entertaining scene with lots of people.  Many locals said to avoid this area because protesters could appear and it could be dangerous.  We did not find that to occur at all.  Overall a safe and fun area to check out.

Some people asked what mobile app to use when visiting Hong Kong and you want to know where the protests are occurring?  I used HKMap Live which is not in English, but you can match against Google Maps and see where you are and then check where police or protesters may be appearing based on their icons.  A little cumbersome, but it works!

Apparently, a bunch of protesters did form up nearby, but we did not run into them.  Over the weekend, they do form up in various places, but nothing for tourists to worry about.

The next morning, you can always might a few remnants from the protesters from time to time.

Talking with a number of locals, store owners, etc., many of the people are pro-Democracy, but it was surprising to hear that a majority of the people we talked to have been finding the protesters harmful.  They are not supportive of the violence and damaging stores, damaging property and potentially scaring more people than driving a cause.

On to the next morning…

Of course, after a night out, I had to sneak in an early morning run to work off all the calories. If you are wondering about the crazy route… Yep it is that hard to find a path given all the construction and complex roads.

But.. Despite all the challenges in running, the views at the breakfast table at the Ritz are amazing!

After breakfast, we did a little touring around the area. This is where the British and Chinese signed the peaceful transition agreement.

On another note, I must admit the bathroom culture and messages across China vary from city to city and are quite humorous.

I forgot to mention we took the famous Star Ferry to go across and visit Hong Kong Island. We came across a few interesting residences… This is the home of the (current) government governor of Hong Kong, Carrie Lim.

And guess what place we found right around the corner from her home with equal fences and cameras? Yep.. The US Embassy! Coincidence?

To have lunch, we took the famous tram up to Victoria’s Peak. Apparently, the tram and the peak only opened up about a month ago.  Pretty cool to take something that always been used for 100+ years…

Some amazing views up there. You really need to take panorama shots.

I only wish we had time to hike in the park and visit the falls at the bottom.

Overall, a fun and sunny day to explore a lot of Hong Kong we had never seen before.  If you missed other posts from this trip, start here:  https://davidcrosstravels.com/2019/10/19/beijing/

 

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Travelling to Hong Kong

It was hard to leave Shanghai, but we need to stick to our plan and cover as much territory as possible.

We took the new MagLev train from Shanghai station to the airport.  The equivalent of $7 will get you to the airport in 7 minutes!

The Shanghai airport had a lot of security and custom lines.  You really do need a full 3 hours to get through everything if you are going to take an international flight.  Some of the labels and misspellings in some places throughout the airport will humor you.

We flew to Hong Kong and many people ask me: Is it safe?  Yes, it was safe. You can check out our experiences of 2 days around Hong Kong in this blog posting.

In the airport, they will not let anyone into the airport without detailed security check, proof that you have a flight itinerary that matches your passport, etc.  Even if you try to take a taxi or Uber to an area that is near a protest, your driver will not take you there and they will warn you.  It is very easy to avoid anything that (might) occur near you.  Most of the protests are in the government building areas and not in tourist areas.

For the next two days we are staying at the Ritz Carlton which is in a great location.  The downside is the lobby is at the 103 floor.  It takes a lot of time to get up and down the building.

The positive is we got a deluxe suite upgrade for being Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite.  Stay tuned for our detailed report tomorrow!

Here is some of the exploration we did around Hong Kong in this posting.

 

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Historic Shanghai

Today was more of a historic day to see a little more of the museum and older districts scene.

First was a quick visit to the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center.  The picture above is 1/60th of the city of Shanghai and it is only the 1st inner ring.  It was to demonstrate the 2020 plan and they are now going to build the 2030 plan.  It was slightly interesting, but I am not sure I would recommend it to most people.

Next was a visit to Shanghai Museum.  They have 4 floors and a large number of exhibitions.  I found some to be quite interesting even though the amount of content and objects is quite small given the size and long history of China.  I found the exhibits of the clothing of the ethnic minorities around China to be quite interesting myself.

This one: the Jade Divine Figure is one of the most famous and is over 4,200 years old!

Personally, the Thousand Buddhas tablet/stone was quite captivating and amazing to see.

I thought the art and calligraphy were very limited compared to what you can see in the National Museum in Taipei, but there were some pretty darn cool statue carvings to see.

For lunch, we headed over to the French Quarter (or concession) which is quite popular with the hip crowd.  Tons of bars and restaurants.

There was a ton of cool/different stores that were fun to explore and check out.  This one…I could not figure out.  It was only a 10×10 store, only appeared to sell t-shirts and backpacks…and had huge lines and queues to get in.

Then…I found something even more interesting!  Guess what it was?  The Communist Party historical museum! I had the right attire (hat) to enter of course…

I believe this might have been one of the original typewriters used in the rise of the party and the national manifesto.  I believe the site of this museum was the location for the 1st national congress of the upcoming communist party.

Overall, it was actually interesting to check out.  It was free to enter as long as you provide a thumbprint for identification.  It mostly about the history and formation of the communist party and not the modern cultural revolution, etc.

The last exploration for the day was to go visit the famous WWII era Jewish ghetto in Shanghai.  Did you know that maybe as many as 14,000 Jews were rescued from Austria before WWII and provided visas from China when many other countries would not?

I had no idea of all the history and the people that had been saved during WWII.  The reality is they all eventually left, but it was an important time in history and China played a major role in helping. We got to visit some of the homes, the park and the restored synagogue and museum to learn some of the history and how they survived.

It was a long day, but a good one.  How can you not like Shanghai and its Gumby style mascot?

If you don’t like him, try out one of the Michelin Star restaurants in Shanghai to unwind?  We had dinner at the Jean Georges which was right next to our hotel.  Fantastic food and service…but it was so busy and loud, it was hard to enjoy.  Teenagers on date night in jeans and families bringing in their 1-2 year olds running around.  It was a different experience to say the least!

On the way to Hong Kong in the next posting!

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Downtown Shanghai like NYC Times Square

When you have a free afternoon on a sunny fall day in downtown Shanghai, what do you do?

Go check out the famous shopping district of course! Our hotel (Waldorf Astoria) that is right on the Bund is only a few blocks away from Nanjing Lu (Nanjing Road): 5th avenue of Shanghai. A combination of high end international brands, local brands, tourist junk and counterfeit knock offs. What category is the scarf above in your opinion?

Interestingly, we were planning on staying at the Shanghai Fairmount hotel which is quite famous, but all of a sudden, a major “leader” in China wanted to use the hotel for a meeting and everyone, including store owners was asked to leave. Now every entrance is guarded by armed secret service types…I am not sure they were thrilled with my picture taking so we did not stick around for long!

One of the unusually unique aspects of the Waldorf Astoria is the “Long Bar” which supposedly the longest bar in the world. We had a happy hour glass of wine and some snacks. The wine list was a little disappointing, but it was a good atmosphere.

Unfortunately, we forgot our costumes so we could not join the costume party, but it was fun to see that quite a few people enjoy the Halloween celebration around the world. When out shopping in the the big Times Square atmosphere and enjoying a meat based “moon cake”, it was almost tempting to check out one of the haunted houses.

Stay tuned… planning on checking out the French Quarter tomorrow and there may be a surprise site that might not be expected in the upcoming posting 😏

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Shanghai

After visiting Beijing, the Great Wall, Xi’an, Chengdu, Leshan, the Panda Bears and the Terracotta Warriors, it was time to visit Shanghai.

Without question, not only is Shanghai the largest city in the world, it is much different than other Chinese cities.  I can see now why it is so popular.  The architectural flare and design differences quickly hit you as soon as you enter the city.

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We were fortunate to secure a room with a view right on the Bund river at the Waldorf Astoria.  The lights, the enthusiasm, the energy of the people is quite a site to see at night.  Very unique and very safe.

It is hard to say whether the evenings or the morning sunrise is better.  The Bund hotels are awesome,  It is not like anything else in the world.  It tops both Times Square in NYC and the Las Vegas strip.

You could not ask for a better place to run in the morning.  I actually found local runners in China for the first time!  I thought running was not popular in China for some reason.

When running in the morning, you see the waves of people working the 1 mile long strip along the Bund to fix and change flowers before the sun arises.

The road is also updated before anyone wakes up to keep the fancy shopping district looking 5 star.

I don’t know if anyone knew, but they have the same Wall Street bull on the Bund strip.  Made from the same artist and there is a guard to protect it 24×7 — even in the middle of the night.

and of course seeing the run rise in the morning is a delight.  The picture is a little fuzzy as the pollution is clear (no pun intended) in this city.  It is very overcast with smog, but at the same time, we have not encountered ant breathing problems.  I took this picture from the old 1920s bridge which was famous in the Empire of the Sun movie.

Running around the world is always fun.  Some of my other favorite spots:

After breakfast, we walked across the street to walk along the Bund.  What a surprise delight – the military patrol boat welcomed us as visiting dignitaries as soon as we got on top of the walkway!

We then got tickets to take the tunnel ride under the river to the other side of the city.

I know this intrigues everyone, so I took a video of the Shanghai Tunnel experience for you!

Once on the other side, we got a great view of the TV tower.  It is right outside the tunnel exit. Amazing design!

From there, we went to visit the second largest building in the entire world.  The Shanghai Tower.

The elevators are also the fastest in the world.  You can go up 118 floors in < 1 minute!  Some of the views are amazing.  Check out the Wandering Earth movie as it will give you a different view of Shanghai.

As you can guess, the views are incredible, but the pollution makes it hard to see far or take clear pictures.  That is why they must constantly clean the windows. Somewhat scary and somewhat hilarious, while we were visiting, one of the window washers was leaning out with a suction cup to clean a trick corner and then…the suction cub slide away and he almost fell out of the basket.  Everyone laughed and clapped (including him) when he recovered.

From there we went to visit the “old town” area of Shanghai to compare it to the new town.  Here is a great picture of both the old and the new in the same frame!  Lots of fun shopping in the old town area.  Highly recommended.

One thing that stood out to me in Shanghai compared to other cities in China is the volume of government messages and billboards promoting guidance and other messages.  Quite prominent here in this city.

OK – off to lunch and maybe a little shopping.  Check out the model I saw getting pictures taken by paparazzi when she got out of her pink Ferrari!

Check out the next post when we explored historic areas of Shanghai.

 

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Rural China

We flew into Guilin, but we are staying in a resort near Yungshou which provides for interesting places to run of course!

It looks like a wonderful place to do some hiking, but we unfortunately did not have enough time. I was only able to sneak in a run or two.

East of the village is not rice paddies, but fields full of sugar cane.

What I found when running through the area is many local stands of people selling the sugar cane. Many people stop and buy the sugar cane to take home as fruit or to make juice.

The other cool thing about running around the world is you get to see some of the local tradecraft and activities. This was pretty cool to see a lady making cement blocks all by herself with this machine. Pretty industrious!

Running around the world is always fun.  Some of my other favorite spots:

Today, we spent most of the day checking out the local scene and getting the pulse of this rural community that is so different from the massive cities in the east.

The best way to start out an early morning is to walk through the local market. Very popular for locals and a great place to get some very cheap delicies. You do have to be careful with the dough based snacks as they are extremely greasy.

Here is a surprise treat that is not easily found in most Cafes. Anyone know what this is??? Guess!

We spent a good chunk of the morning walking through the very old and historic village of Fuli. The traditional style of all doorways on this area is to have the red calligraphy above and to the sides of all doors.

It is amazing what you can see in some of the abandoned homes and apartments. Check out this old Mao communist poster!

Another surprise delight was to see a local blacksmith working on making some tools. Quite amazing to see how he built a forge out of an old oil barrel.

Tonight, we went to see the famous Impression Show. This is a huge event that is held every night with 600 local performers and is fully packed every night. Check out the views of the mountains in the backdrop!

It has been running since 2004 and was created by the famous director and choreographer from the Beijing Olympics.  I think his name was Zhang Yimou.

The picture above is a famous singer or dancer I think, but I did not catch all the details.  The h is impressive to say the least.  Here is one of the videos I captured.

It is quite a show and a must see. Our pictures are a little distant, but it was amazing to see this wave of Imperial Stormtroopers for the upcoming Star Wars movie being released in December. We felt safe since we had VIP seats on the suites up on top and could escape easily.

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Mountains of China

It was a gorgeous sunrise this morning from our top floor room at the St Regis in Chengdu. The top floor was thanks to being a Titanium Elite in the Marriott Bonvoy program with a complimentary upgrade 🙂

Today, our plan is to fly south to Guilin.

But of course we had to relish the idiosyncrasies of the Chinese airport culture. For some reason, men do not like getting close to urinals, so they all must be encouraged to not pee in the floor and actually pee in the urinals.

It was a short flight (< 1.5 hours) down to Guilin, and I must admit the scenery was quite unique when flying into the cloudy mountains. You encounter short cloud breaks and then observe all the windmills that are actually at the top of the mountains. Quite tricky to fly into this area…

Since there were no crowds and waves of tourists, we hopped on a flat bottom river cruise boat to explore the Li River and mountain scenery.

We ended the river cruise near the Yangshuo village which is centered in the mountains.

It is definitely a tourist town with gorgeous scenery and a business that thrives on people cruising the river.

We found a great place to stay in the area that is just outside the Yangshuo village area. Very much a resort style hotel that is close to the river and has a lot of luxury amenities and activities.

The banyan tree yangshuo resort is pretty impressive.  Pools, river access, large fish ponds and wild peacocks which they will give you food to feed if they will pay attention to you 😉

Stay tuned to this channel for an update on the local report!

 

 

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