I had another another late morning in Hong Kong today, but that's because I only had one location in mind: The Peak on Hong Kong Island.
Last night on my way home I had bought a bottle of Aquarius Water. It's a wonderful beverage I first discovered in Japan. It's like the Gatorade of the Orient. No matter where I went in Japan I bought a bottle of it, and last night I bought a liter of it at a nearby 7-11. I took a swing of it for breakfast, brushed up and left for the day.
I walked West back to Olympic Station. It was difficult for me to find my way out of the station last night last night, but it was much easier in the daylight. Olympic Station is a huge station, that is several football fields long and multiple stories hight. It was also attached to a shopping mall, which is why it was so large. I also here learned that the reason it was named "Olympic Station" was in honor of several Hong Kong athletes winning gold in the 1996 Summer Olympics.
I took the train under Victoria Harbor and to Central Station. Hong Kong Island is the largest island in Hong Kong, and is the business section of the city. As a result, this area is full of white collar people, glass buildings, shopping centers and isn't nearly as old and decayed looking as Kowloon.
Before I began navigating my way to the Peak, I took a look at my map and saw I wasn't too far from Hong Kong Park. Because I knew how popular the Peak was, and since it was already near noon, I decided to hold off on the park for now. I walked past it, and eventually found the entrance of the Peak Tram. It was full of people, and the wait was over an hour long. It was so long that the line up went under an overpass and even crossed a busy street. I couldn't believe my eyes!
But being as this was the only thing I wanted to do today, I got in line. About a half hour in I got about a quarter of the way in and bought a drink from a merchant that set up shop near the line (he probably made a killing that day). In time I neared the tram entrance, draining my bottle of water. I crossed the street, entered the tram entrance and was greeted with cool air conditioning. There was still a line up, but it was much better inside than out in the mid-day heat.
There was a miniature museum set up along the walls of the tram station, which talked about the different events the Peak witnessed, such as its initial construction, the Canadians defending it against the Japanese, the many natural disasters and the different kinds of rail cars used. There was even a video at the end showing off the Peak and what awaited people at the top. Had it not been so crowded, I would have really enjoyed taking my time and learning more about the station and the Peak.
The tram arrived, emptied and accepted more passengers. I had to wait for three trams to come and go before I finally got on, and of course I had to stand. But by now I was so excited I didn't even care. I wish I had been sitting down when we turned the corner of the mountain and saw Hong Kong from above for the first time, though! The view was fantastic!
Arriving at the Peak, you enter a giant gift shop. One thing the Peak is most famous for is the "wax hand" molds. I saw one in the introduction video and wanted to try it out. First you dip your hand into a warm, thin solution (I thought it was wax, but the wax comes next, so I think it's some kind of oil for the wax to slip off easier) and then quickly put your hand into the cold water. Then you go back and and fourth between the warm wax and the cool water a few times, feeling the wax thicken on your hand. Once a solid white, you dip your hand into coloured wax, staining it however you would like. I chose to get it rainbow coloured. By now I had gotten a crowd watching me, all anxious to see the final product. My hand was done being made into wax, and although my fist was curled, the lady very expertly peeled it off. She melted a base onto it, and put it into a cute little red box for me to carry. I didn't get less than 10 steps from the counter before somebody asked for a picture of me and them all holding it in amazement. This was the second time somebody asked for my picture in just as many days!
While trying to find my way out of the shopping center, I found Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. I've seen Madame Tussauds in Los Angeles when I was younger, and there was one in London, and one in Paris, and one in New York, and one in Vancouver, so I didn't go in. I know from experience the wax statues are incredible. If you have never gone, be sure to go!
I finally found my way out of the mall, and I found someplace quiet to take out my wax hand and look at it. It was so hot out today I was worried it would melt if I kept it out too long. It didn't, but I didn't want to take any chances. Foolish me for buying such a fragile thing so early in the day!
I stopped at the Starbucks on the Peak (they're everywhere) and had another Lime Explosion like I had in Tokyo. It was still wonderful. I then went to the edge of the platform, took some pictures, and then wandered over to the boat shaped Peak building. A few flights of stairs more (and past a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. store) I arrived on the deck. At the top, several young women were handing out headsets asking for people who spoke certain languages to line up in different lines. I got mine, in English, and wandered away on my own. I found a nice bench, sat down and learned about the Peak, Hong Kong, its skyline and its history. I learned a lot of it yesterday at the museum, but I still found it very fascinating.
It was not as fascinating as the view of the city, however! I've been told the city is even more beautiful from up here at night, but seeing it in the daytime was something else completely! I took more pictures than I'm willing to admit, walked around a bit more, and left.
It started to rain then, so everybody scampered inside, making the line to get onto the tram much shorter. I got back down the mountain, got off the tram and pulled over to the side to examine my map. My first stop was going to be Hong Kong Park, but then I noticed right near it, and closer to me, were the Hong_Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. I don't have a zoo back home, so I had to go check that out!
The zoo was small. It mostly focused on the different fauna around Hong Kong, much like the museum did. There were different animals, like mammals and birds and reptiles and fish, but it was more of a side thought. The children there loved seeing the monkeys and lemurs, so I enjoyed it too.
Leaving the garden, I became disoriented. I'm still not sure where exactly I came out, but I eventually wound my way back over to Central. I used this as a landmark and, realizing later I forgot about Hong Kong Park, I went towards the Cenotaph. The Cenotaph in Hong Kong is much like all the other million Cenotaphs around the world, but this one was special to me. It was not only dedicated to the Hong Kong soldiers that died during World War II, but the also the Canadian soldiers that sacrificed their lives on the Peak, the same one I had just left.
I walked a bit further and found a park near the coast. I took a break here, gathered my bearings and stretched out. It was another exhausting day, but I was almost done. I got up, took some pictures of the nearby buildings, such as City Hall, and carried East a little more. Finally I found the massive Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, which was too big to take a picture of. It also had construction going on around it, which I thought was too bad because I would have liked to see the beauty of the building without the freshly laid tar, orange construction tape and bulldozers.
While walking up the side of the HKCEC, I found the treasure I was hunting for: the Reunification Monument. This monument was erected in 1997 when Hong Kong rejoined mainland China. Although a lot less impressive than I had hoped, I still took many pictures of it. It was here a man stopped me and gestured towards his camera. After traveling long enough, I understood what he wanted. He wanted me to take a picture of him and his wife in front of the monument. But... that wasn't what he wanted at all. He wanted a picture of me and his wife, the opposite way of the monument, as if I was the thing of interest there! I still have no idea why. Maybe because I'm a Caucasian and they had never seen one before? All the other times the requests to take my picture made sense, but this one did not!
On the other side of the HKCEC was the Golden Bauhinia Square; a golden flower statue. I still don't understand why the statue is so important, but almost every book I read about Hong Kong told me visit it. I wasn't very impressed but I took some pictures anyway.
The sun was setting, so I wound my way back to Central Station. I was hot, tired and hungry. I know I complain about the heat a lot, but it was literally like walking around a sweat lodge all day. Rivers of sweat poured down my body and my shirt and pants stuck to my arms and legs. In my fatigued state I couldn't figure out where the entrance to the Station was... but then I saw something I did recognize, something I never thought I would see here...
I hadn't seen a Pret in years since my trip to London, and while there I practically lived there! I of course instantly looked for a ham and egg bloomer and orange juice (with "Absolutely no Nasties") but couldn't find one. I instead had an egg sandwich, some fruit and a water. Feeling regenerated, and laughing at seeing Pret again, I carried on my way.
I found the station and took the train back to Olympic Stadium. Much like last night, the moment I got off I was confused as to where to go. It wasn't until I heard the faint music of the Symphony of Lights to my right did I realize which way was South. I headed the opposite way, past the shops and stores of Kowloon, and found my hotel.
Although not much was done today, I felt exhausted. I got to my room, stripped off my clothes and went for a shower. Then I drank about a half liter of my Aquarius Water, laid down on my bed and fell asleep.
Tomorrow is Tai O... and for the first time on my trip I'm a bit afraid because I have no idea what awaits me in this small fishing village, other than poverty, sadness and disease.
Until next time!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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For many of us in Saskatchewan, summer means it's time for an Alberta road trip. Although the endless stretches of prairie have their appeal, there is nothing quite like seeing the mountains rising over the horizon.
One challenge that comes with taking a summer road trip is the heat. Much like on this side of the border, it isn't uncommon for summer temperatures to get to the extreme. I know a few people who have had car problems in the heat, and my family is one of them. Nothing ruins a trip more than an unexpected visit to the mechanic.
Thankfully, Alberta has a myriad of places to go swimming, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding or fishing. This not only gives your vehicle time to cool off, but also gives you a chance to escape the heat as well.
Nestled between the impressive Mount Royal and the majestic St. Lawrence River is Montreal, a city known for its festivals, abstract art, history and mosaic of countless cultures. Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, with a population floating around four million people. While the city is a dynamic mix of Canada's two primary cultures – French and English – there are areas of the city that are culturally specific, such as Little Italy, Greektown and Chinatown. Known for its artistic and liberal mindedness, Montreal also boasts the largest community of homosexuals in North America in their very own "Gay Village".
Being nearly 375 years old, Montreal was pivotal to the creation of New France and Canada and at a time held control over every waterway from the St. Lawrence down to the Gulf of Mexico. Having such incredible influence over the western part of the New World, Montreal hosted the "Great Peace of Montreal" in 1701, which started sixteen years of peace between the French and over 40 different First Nation tribes in North America.
Since its early days, Montreal has been one of the most influential cities in Canada. Montreal housed "internment camps" during World War I, became an ideal location for Americans looking for alcohol during Prohibition, and was the official residence of the Luxembourg royal family during World War II. Montreal held host to the incredible Expo 67, showcasing some of the most incredible architecture of that decade. The seventies saw serious political reformation in Montreal, with many Americans arriving, fleeing the Vietnam Draft. The late seventies paralyzed the city as a terrorist organization, the Front de libération du Québec, detonated explosives throughout the city and kidnapped and killed political figures. These actions forced the Prime Minster to enact the "War Measures Act" and deploy the military into the city to apprehend the terrorists. The eighties and nineties saw two referendums in the province of Quebec to separate from Canada, with Montreal playing a major role in both decisions. The last referendum in 1995 ended with 51% percent of Quebecers wanting to remain part of Canada and 49% wanting to separate.
If you follow my blog, you know I love history. History is what makes us who we are today. It defines our accomplishments and highlights our failures. Most importantly, it helps us move forward as a society.
A lot of my focus is Saskatchewan's history, but there's plenty of amazing history to be told in our neighbour province of Alberta too. From First Nations culture, through to early pioneers, the oil boom and the legacy the province today, there is always something to learn about when visiting Alberta.