Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Hurricane Sandy & Journey Home

Left our HK hotel at 7am Halloween Wednesday and made it home exactly 36 hours later, 7pm Thursday night (HK time).

We arrived to Central Hong Kong and were able to check into our flight which was still scheduled to be on. We checked in our luggage, got our tickets, and got onto the the Airport Express train. Almost at the airport and there's an announcement that our flight is cancelled. We went straight to the United counter at the airport and our scheduled was switched to..

2. Saturday, Depart HK. Fly to Tokyo, then Tokyo to Chicago, then Chicago to Montreal.

Then it was switched to..

3. Friday, Depart HK. Fly to San Fran, then San Fran to Chicago, then Chicago to Montreal.

And our luggage would not be returned to us while in HK. We sat down at a coffee shop to search for a hotel in HK to stay in for the next 2 nights. About 30 min later, after booking a hotel, Kristina had a "feeling" and ran back to the United booth. Thank god she did because our original flight had been scheduled to be back on, and we were returned to our original schedule.

1. Today, Depart HK. Fly to Newark, then to Montreal.

The flight was delayed a few hours because the flight crew had all gone home. But eventually we boarded and made it out. At take off no one was sure if Newark Airport would be open when we landed or not- it was still closed by schedule to open right before our landing time. The flight was 16 hours and luckily Newark was open when we landed. A few times during the flight the captain announced that he had no idea what was happening at Newark. He knew that parts of the airport still had no power and were shut down. He wasn't sure if anything else was landing, or if anything was taking off. So please don't ask him anything, and good luck out there.

After landing we soon learned that absolutely no flights were taking off to Canada or the US, only to Europe. We learned that bridges into the city were opened, but not tunnels. Trains were still closed, and Port Authority in the city was shut down. There was no public transportation into or out of the city. Also, taxi's at the airport were refusing to take people into the city.

After going through customs we were put on the next available flight to Montreal which was for Thursday afternoon (it was now Wednesday afternoon). Unhappy with this flight (since we had 2 suitcases each and didn't want to make the long journey into the city then back out the next day) we searched for our other options. We took the tram to the Air Canada counter and found out there were no other options. Then we took the tram to the rental car terminal to see if we could rent a car to drive as far north as we could. We soon discovered that all rental drop off places would be closed by the time we arrived anywhere. With Krisina's mom also on the mission to find a way to get us home we were eventually booked on a bus back to Montreal leaving later that night from Brooklyn. Now.. how do we get to Brooklyn? All the rental car places in Brooklyn were closed so we couldn't drive there. We needed a taxi. The guy at the rental place called his taxi driver friend who charged us a ridiculous amount of money to drive us into the city. He expected it would take 3 hours to drive us to Brooklyn since many roads were closed, but that he would try to get us there.. no promises. Once in the cab I found out that the bus also had a pick-up in Washington Heights in Manhattan so we decided to be dropped off there instead. At 7pm we were dropped off at 186th street and Amsterdam Ave, the bus was supposed to pick-up at 10:30pm. We found a small take-out shwarma place, Golan Heights, and set-up camp. The place was jam packed with Orthodox Jewish students- I felt like I was back in Israel. We were in the local hang-out place where everyone was catching up with each other. We got a bunch of food but both of us were too tired to eat much. Freezing from the draft of the door, and exhausted from our lack of sleep and the time difference, the entire 4 hours there was incredibly unpleasant. It was loud and impossible to nap anywhere. Mr. and Mrs. Claus ate at the restaurant with us.

At 11pm the bus finally arrived and a bunch of us from the restaurant climbed on. The bus was a normal coach bus and had a bathroom which was a huge plus. There are no-stops (also amazing). At 6:30am we drove through downtown Montreal and I paid the driver $10 to drop me off downtown. I walked home in the cold rain from Sherbrook and University with all of my luggage, but boy did it feel amazing. Refreshing even. 36 hours later we were finally home! We made it.

Hurricane stories:
1. A guy who was scheduled to leave HK on Sunday was re-booked for Thursday, the next available flight to NY that wasn't booked.
2. A guy who we met on the train had been re-booked on our flight after his flight from Monday was cancelled. His wife and 3 daughters were in their home in Connecticut, which was flooded with no electricity.
3. My Fire Island house is ok. We lost the stairs to the beach. 7 houses in my community were taken by the hurricane.
4. A guy from our HK flight needed to go to New Orleans. He was put on our Newark flight, but from Newark there was no way for him to get home for over a week.
5. All the hotels at the airport that are open were completely booked. Most of the hotels were shut down because they had no electricity.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Rainy Day

Monday we headed to the Mega Show Part 2- the stationery part of the show. After the show we headed out for a day of shopping. We ate lunch at Zen at Pacific Place, grabbed our first Starbucks in the mall, then walked around for a few hours. We walked back downtown stopped in stores and shopping streets along the way. We found the mall that Kristina had purchased her favourite chapstick in last year, and she purchased another round of products there. We then found a cute cafe and had a snack. Kristina had a tiramisu latte with cream puffs, and I had a a red been matcha latte with steamed mixed mushroom in truffle oil- both interesting and delicious!

It was pouring on Tuesday, our last day. We slept in then headed to East Kowloon to have lunch with Debby from Nishi Pearls (Arka's company). We took the shuttle to central, then a metro to TST, then another metro to East TST, then a cab to her office. After visiting the office, and a retail store upstairs, we headed to a local mall and had an amazing Dim Sum lunch. Our first official dim sum of the trip. Steamed shrimp dumplings, steamed shrimp pasta dumplings, fish balls, steamed taro rolls, friend noodles with mushrooms, sautéed kale, etc. 3 hours with Debby then we took a cab to downtown Kowloon and finally went to Aqua bar at 1 Peking Road. The bar is located on the 18th floor and has a perfect view of the skyline. Though the sky was foggy it was an excellent view. Kristina had a port and I started with a Red Passion (vodka, chambered, limoncello, raspberries and lemongrass).
An hour later Mike met us. From there there we headed back to HK Island to Mike's neighbourhood (Wanchai) to his favourite local Thai restaurant, The Spice House Restaurant. For dessert we had amazing sticky rice with mango.. then another one.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Ritz in the Sky


Back to the land of freeeeeesh hair and humanity. Went to the train station and had Burger King (our only option). We both barely picked at our food, except for the spicy chicken wings we tried along with our whoopers. We then went through customs and I pulled out my kindle to read and there is a huge crack in the screen. Something the cleaning lady must have done since I had just read the day before. I've now lost a $600 camera with a $120 memory card, and I have a completely unusable $150 kindle. Fantastic. 

Exiting the train station felt amazing. It doesn't smell like cigarettes or pollution, and possibly we can see the sun. In much need of some pampering we checked into our hotel then headed for the Ritz Carlton bar- Ozone. The Ritz is on the Kowloon side in the highest tower in Hong Kong (ICC), and the bar is the tallest bar in the world. We take the elevator to the 103rd floor, cross the lobby, then take an elevator to the 118th floor. The bar is modern with a space theme. 

Not what either of us were expecting, and definitely not what we wanted, but we stayed anyway. The scene was quite since it was a Sunday night. We sat for dinner and had salmon tartar cones, lamb kebabs, basil calamari, duck spring rolls and salmon maki rolls. I tried a champagne blackberry mojito which was delicious. They use crushed ice for all of their drinks for a modern presentation. 

After dinner we left and headed back towards Lan Kwai Fong for a different atmosphere. We landed at a small French restaurant called Pastis and sat on the sidewalk and sipped red wine and cognac and snacked on the most amazing olives. About 10 minutes in Kristina realized that she recognized a man at the restaurant. We re-introduced ourselves and it turns out that we had had drinks with him at a bar just down the road last year. We chatted with him again and for the second year in a row we had him take a snap shot of us. See you next year lawyer from Vancouver who now lives in HK.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Worst Luck


Woke-up to discover that I lost my camera the night before. Left to take a cab to the spa and ended up being driven around for an hour before we realized the taxi driver had no idea where we were going. Paid, got out lost, then found another taxi. He also didn’t know where we were going so we had him drop us off a mile from the spa. Then began walking along the water to the spa and Kris’s sandal broke. We kept hobbling and then bought her a pair of tiny orange rubber sandals (incredibly sexy). Finally made it to the spa at 5pm. We in the steam room, got a salt massage, a milk massage, sauna, ate dinner, then a foot massage, manicure, hot oil massage, then ate again, watched a movie with Michael Douglas and Demi Moore while enjoying platters of fruit, fresh squeeze watermelon juice and teas, then hot a Thai massage. Each massage was 90 minutes.  Checked out of the spa at 4am. 11 Hours of success.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Barbies


Went to the Party Pier along the Pearl River. A large pier filled with bars and restaurants. Unfortunately everything was closed preparing for a Halloween party later that night. We did find a small restaurant called Amy’s Inn and had an amazing lunch. Kris finally got the noodles she had been craving, and we got some beef satay and a steamed Chinese fish with ginger. We then continued down the beer to the International Beer Museum (talked about by American tourists). We did the tour then had unlimited free beer in the bar next door. The bar/club was huge with chandeliers across the ceiling and posters for Audio Prostitute on the walls. We had 2 beers and talked with our Chinese bartender who insisted on taking a picture with us. We learned how to say 1,2,3 in Chinese.


As we left the club we got stuck in the rain. It smelled awful- like chemicals. We were convinced we were going to melt, and there were no taxis around so we jumped on a random bus. No clue where we were heading we drove around for about 20min before jumping out near a metro-stop. We got a yellow cake brick dessert from a bakery, which ended up tasting delicious and egg-y. We then hoped a cab to Beijing Pedestrian Street where we shopped for our Halloween costumes. Blond wigs, blue eye shadow, candy pink lipstick, pink dresses- Barbie!

Went back to the hotel and ate at our sushi restaurant again, Gyo Kome Sushi. Then got ready for Halloween.

We tried TrueColor first but since it wasn’t Halloween themed that night we ended up going to the China Hotel at the Marriot Hotel where there was a Halloween Bash going on. “Apocalypse” organized by In The Red Magazine (a magazine in Guangzhou for expats). The event for a flat fee for unlimited booze and snacks. After one minute inside we regretted it. It was all expats from England, South America, Italy, etc. We did not come to China to hang out with non-Chinese. We stayed for less than 2 hours, mostly by the bar, meeting these fellow expats. We also met the Editor of the magazine, as well as some of the other employees. We then shared a taxi with 2 Spanish boys to True Color. A mix between Spanish/French was screamed the whole trip. The cab stopped and we bolted inside the club and ditched our new friends. One lap around the back and we found a group of British boys and landed there. Wigs came off. Yes we’re really blond underneath.. And the dancing started.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Factory


Went to visit our silicone manufacturer farther in mainland. We were created by a poster in front with our names on it welcoming us.

We had a fantastic lunch on the water. There were no menus- ALL the food was alive this time. There were the typical seafood in tanks, and then there were alive snakes in cages, and alive poultry in cages. We ordered only seafood, as we did not want to see the inevitable of a live bird being killed in front of us. We played with a blowfish and I got to hole one, which was amazing. We had a feast of roasted oysters, a huge steamed fish, clams, snow crabs, shrimps, tofu, Chinese kale in ginger, Chinese kale in garlic, soup, beers and the whole meal only cost them $40.


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Somalia


Went to the Canton Fair and had our soup dumplings for breakfast. Missed those.

After the trade show we went to the Canton Tower and did the Bubble Tram- a gondola that spins around the top of the tower. As expected it is just as foggy and polluted at the top of the tower as it is on the ground. We then bought tangerines and pomegranates from a local seller and headed back to our hotel.

That night we went back to our favorite restaurant in Haizhu Square. They eliminated my favorite scallop and peaches dish. We got roasted duck, shrimp dumplings, scallops with cashews, and some awful mayo shrimp dish (our mistake). We drank Pearl River Drafts (missed those too!) Then we walked to Soho bar. We didn’t like the scene so we went next door to Somalia bar and spent the night there. We were invited to join a table by Joycelyn, a Chinese model agent. We were adored and asked to model for her for 1,000 Yuan an hour.  The Chinese like to cheers about every 10 seconds, which will include them picking up your class for you and forcing the cheers. We drank our whiskey sodas and danced into the night. The Chinese don’t tend to dance so we were happy to get the club moving. A Chinese Michael Jackson serenaded me on stage, and Kris and I did a fantastic dance to a mix of “I’m sexy and I know it” and “Gagnam Style”.  Halfway through the night out we were moved to another table so our table could be combined by with that of these 2 Indian boys. One of the boys was fantastic. Blatantly gay and dancing like a mix between Ricky Martin and Shakira. He was fantastic! He kept hoping on stage and swinging his hips from side-to-side. Then there was Joycelyn who may or may not have been coming onto me. Luckily I had about 2 feet on her. Dance the night away.