Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Hong Kong Part 2: Catching up with old friends, Guedetama and PMQ Markets

On our second day in Hong Kong we changed from a hotel in Kowloon to one in Causeway Bay, our main plan for the day was to catch up with my old High School friend Lillian and her  family. When we arrived at our hotel we had plenty of time to look around before we met the others for lunch.

Causeway Bay is very different to Kowloon, its much quieter and it feels very much like a place where everyday people live.

We spend much of the morning wandering around Victoria Park and while these photos make it look pretty empty it was a hive of activity! There were joggers, runners, cyclists and people practicing all kinds of martial arts and dance routines as well as families and older folk sitting around enjoying the sunshine.

We met Lillian, her husband Ben and cute wee daughter Lauren  at a Yum Cha (Dim Sum) place in Causeway Bay - it was awesome to be heading out with locals because they know where to eat and they also speak Cantonese so there wasn't any barrier for us going to have Yum Cha, we just told them what type of things we wanted to eat.
Lillian asked us was there anything we really wanted to see in Hong Kong that we could all go and do together, I told Lillian I love Guedetama and I really wanted to visit the Guedtama Cafe I had read about - it turned out Lillian loves Guedetama as much as me so we caught the subway to the Guedetama cafe straight after Yum Cha!

If you have no idea who Gudetama you can see him in the you tube video below, he's basically an adorable sleepy egg!

 I was pretty excited to get to visit to super Kawaii cafes in a matter of two days! Lillian and I had a look around the gift shop while we waited for some seats.
Pretty much everything in the cafe was Guedetama themed from the food right down to the seats!

Seen as we had already had lunch, we decided to get drinks and dessert and everything was pretty amazing and adorable.

We did a bit of shopping together, but Lauren was getting tired so it was time to part ways. When we told Lillian that we had no plans for the rest of the day she suggested we head over to PMQ located in Central which is an art market in a historic building which is totally our kind of thing so with directions from Lillian we went to check it out.

The walk to the market was almost as interesting as the market itself! Lots of street art (including yarn bombing!) and interesting stores.

It turns out PQM is in an old Police Station, the building is huge! So  I wonder if it was the national office or perhaps it used to have a lot of cells. There is a big open area at the bottom and then a tonne of cute stores on each level. I was surprisingly restrained in here, I could have spend our whole trips budget in some of these stores.

 Unfortunately you couldn't play these piano's - well not that I can play piano anyway, but Rich can!

A lot of the stores had classes available as well as selling their products, we saw a jam making course in action on the ground floor when we arrived. If I lived in Hong Kong I would have wanted to take SO MANY courses here!
When we were visiting PMQ they had and art on stairs project happening where a number of different artists had painted the staircases in the building - here were a few of my favourites.

 This is the end of our FIRST trip to Hong Kong (we went back there later in our trip) - next stop Manila!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hong Kong Part One: Kowloon Park, Ten Thousand Buddas, Chinese Gardens and Hello Kitty!

Hello World! I felt like lately I haven't had much time for blogging, despite having so many things to share. There's not point in complaining about a lack of time though - the point is I actually have some time now so its time to share some of our adventures from our last trip.

This year our trip started out in Hong Kong, its the second time we have been to Hong Kong and last time we ticked off all of the "must do's" so this time we thought we would find some more usual things to do.

We were staying in Kowloon for the first couple of nights, so we started the day with a walk to Kowloon park. When we arrived there I was reminded why I love to travel so much - there are some many unexpected and amazing things in the world.

Like when you expect an inner city park with a few people doing tai chi or other exercises but you find this out front!

You may have heard of the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars, which is dedicated to the Hong Kong Movie Industry. It's actually closed for repairs right now, but we visited it back in 2010.

Anyway turns out these cute guys were at the entrance to the Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars - I don't know much about Hong Kong animation and I'm not sure if these characters were just from Hong Kong or if they were from China as well? Anyway, as you may have guessed, my favourites were the super cute ones. Especially the cute pig!

There were a few guys like this, that looked generally bad ass and kind of reminded me of Dragonball Z.

I loved this characters cute stripey outfit - striped are one of my favourites though!
Finally, here's a guy that reminded me of James Bond - I wonder if his character is a secret agent of some kind?

Our next stop after Kowloon Parker was the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin, we had to take the subway to get there. It took us a little while to find it as it wasn't that clearly marked. 
This might not be the ideal place for you to visit if you don't like walking up steps, because there are a lot of steps up to the monastery - fortunately there are lots of interesting things to see on the while climbing the stairs.

I assume that each of these statutes represented a different monk or story, but as this is a monastery and not  a museum there wasn't any way to know what the stories were or relevance of each statute may be - I particularly liked this guy with the long eyebrows and would love to know what his story was.
Quite a few of the statutes were riding animals - including fish and turtles.

When you finally reach the top of the stairs you are greeted with more statutes - I think the middle guy here is actually a South East Asian style Buddha (I just recognise him from temples I've visited in South East Asian countries - I'm not expert on Buddhism).
Once you finally reach the top of the stairs here you are treated to a beautiful view of Hong Kong, which makes all those stairs worthwhile! Unless of course you really hate climbing stairs, at this point you may have already lost the will to live.
When you reach the top of the stairs there is quite a big area to explore, we chose to turn to the left to the left to start with to check out a courtyard. There were a few steps up to the courtyard and more Buddhas (obviously).

In the courtyard there was a striking temple and some truly beautiful deities for worship, but you guys will have to visit to see them for yourself as not photographs are allowed. I can assure you though if you do visit Hong Kong its worth all the steps to see them.

There was also a pagoda, bonsai trees and some more golden statutes that were ok to photograph though, this was the first time I'd seen any female statutes since entering the monastery! 

After exploring the courtyard we decided to see what else there was in the monastery, we made our way along a path with more golden statutes - including this guy, I would love to know what the story behind this is! He seems pretty calm for a guy with tiny arms coming out of his eyeballs.
The rest of the monastery included many, many more golden statutes including more woman.
 There were a number of people working hard on the monastery while we were there - cleaning, painting and generally keeping everything in tip top shape. So it was a little strange there was what appeared to be a derelict house in the middle of the monastery - I guess this is another mystery that I will never know the answer too, I couldn't help wonder how it was in such disrepair when so much love and care was put into keeping the rest of the monastery in order.

In this area of the monastery there were a number of other temples, in which no photos were allow. When there are people there worshiping it really doesn't feel right to take photos even if you are allowed. There was a lot of incense and that does make for a lovely picture and a lovely smell.
We continued walking and found a number of pools and a waterfall - at the very bottom pool there were a group of turtles, but they were too far down for my camera to be able to capture. A number of ponds in  the waterfall were also full of coy carp.
You could walk some stairs to the top of the waterfall where you were greeted by a reclining Buddha and an amazing view of Hong Kong.

This beautiful lady was also at the very top of the waterfall and as you can see from the photo above there were even more golden statutes here.
From here we walked down all the stairs to return to the subway, I was pretty happy we did take the time to come out to this monastery and its an amazing place.
After the monastery we decided to have a break in Sha Tin, the area by the river is really lovely and we found a beautiful Chinese garden. Also see those people wearing puffer jackets? The spring in Hong Kong was colder than the autumn in Wellington!

Seen as we were already on a role with gardens, we decided to take the subway to the Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Gardens.

One of my favourite things about Nan Lin gardens (apart from the fact its free to visit and free is my favourite price!) were the amazing bonsai trees.

There was a vegetarian restaurant we considered eating at here, but when we relised it was under this waterfall we knew it would be pricey! You can just see the windows of the restaurant through the waterfall.
I didn't really mind that the restaurant was too expensive as there were plenty of other beautiful things to see in the garden and the adjoining nunnery.

Our next stop we kind of ended up for when we were looking for somewhere to eat, we took the cafe to Tsim Sha Tsui as there were a lot of food places there. I had OBVIOUSLY wanted to visit here from before we even started researching what to do in Hong Kong - but I didn't expect to stumble across the Hello Kitty Le Petit Cafe on our first day in Hong Kong!
I am very lucky that Rich tolerates my insanity in regards to Hello Kitty and everything kawaii and the fact that when I visit anywhere like this I say "EVERYTHING IS SO  CUTE" about a hundred times.

Everything was totally cute though! This is very much a coffee and cake place so we got some green tea lattes and I bought myself a Hello Kitty macron. As you can tell by the pictures and the name of the cafe it's French "themed" but I suspect a French may not feel right at home here!

The green tea lattes included a Hello Kitty stencil on the top in chocolate and my macron was lavender flavoured.

The decor was a kitty-o-rama right down to the floor tiles and I obviously had to have my photo taken with the lady herself in a jaunty hat!

Well that was pretty much our first day in Hong Kong, as always, we don't do things by halves and spent all of the day walking and exploring (very little relaxing was done!).