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Saturday, August 19, 2006


Misty Hong Kong, Steamy Beijing

After about 20 hours of flight we arrived in Hong Kong at approximately 730 friday morning. Dont get confused with the math - we crossed the international date line.

Not to say that the flight was uneventful. We hit pretty bad traffic on the way to the airport, but we knew that the plane was delayed half an hour. And after calling and specifically reserving seats they ended up giving our seats away. I guess Cathay doesn't understand the purpose of a reservation. It was almost a disaster as they gave us seats apart from one another across the plane for the 12 hour flight from Vancouver to HK. Fortunately, we managed to switch, and even got an aisle seat. And aside from the annoyance, the flight was actually quite pleasant. A good selection of videos, decent food, and the service was phenomenal.

Nonetheless, when we arrived in Hong Kong we were tired. We spent eight hours in the city walking up a lot of steps in 100 degree humid weather. Hong Kong was very much like the Chinatowns in New York and San Francisco. A chinese feel with a western influence. Modern skyscrapers and fancy stores all over the place and more banks then I have ever seen. The highlight of our 8 hours in Hong Kong was the tea house visit and the dimsum. The dimsum restaurant, Maxims, was in Hong Kong's City Hall- I always enjoy seeing where hardworking munipical workers like myself eat lunch.

That evening we arrived in Beijing at 9PM not knowing whether or not our host, Jason Fei would be there to pick us up. Sure enough there he was holding up a sign "Ms. Kim" with his son. Turns out we really lucked out with this homestay. Jason is one of China's new upper middle class. He owns his own food importing business (and showed off his products at breakfast the next day with new zealand butter, spanish sardines and german cereal). He also owns his own apartment (two actually) in a nice new building on the top floor. The place is spotless and his wife cooks us breakfast and dinner each day. There is another American - Felipe - staying at the apartment, who is there for two weeks to study Chinese, as he is getting his Masters in Asian Studies in Miami. He is a great guy, and his Chinese was very helpful as we navigated the city yesterday.

After finally getting a full nights sleep in a bed and a nice shower, we headed out to do some sightseeing and shopping. We hit the Forbidden City and Tiananmen square first. Like most of Beijing, a good portion of the Forbidden City was under construction - which was a bit disappointing - nevertheless, it was still quite impressive in its magnitude, and we enjoyed strolling around in the hot steamy weather with thousands of other chinese tourists.

Felipe, our fellow homestayer, was on a mission to buy knock-off purses for his wife. I happily obliged this errand. We headed over to the Silk Market, which basically is 5 floors of western knockoffs at chinese prices. It was pretty much all foreigners haggling for deals. It was Canal Street on steroids. I wanted to buy my sister and mom a bunch of louis vitton and gucci bags, but it was our first day and I am not so good at telling whether they are good fakes or not. Plus, we would probably get arrested for shipping a ton of fake bags to the US, so we instead opted for Cartier and Tag watches for ourselves for the hefty price of $35 for both. Not bad.

After $7 hour long massages, we returned home for what we thought was a homemade Peking Duck meal with the Feis. Turned out they opted for takeout bird, but it was still the traditional meal. Jon and I ate as though it was the most delicious meal we ever had, but both thought it was too greasy for our palates.

We both woke up at 3Am this morning and couldnt fall back asleep - were not yet on China time. Today we will head over to an arts district - former military factories converted into artist space - and see some live contemporary chinese music tonight.

Glad to see u look happy & healthy (Sandy says) You don't look any worse for the trip. Has Jon checked out the local ER as yet? Who is the mayor, have u made contact with the him as yet?
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