It wasn't even 4 o'clock when my alarm went off. I had packed everything the night before, so it was a quick shower, and quick goodbye to a sleepy Steve, and I was out the door by 5.
Alison, who throughout the trip was always two doors down from us, had also just left. I met up with her in the hallway and we walked down the main floor together. After yesterday, we both knew how to get around Tokyo, but nevertheless, waiting for us in the lobby was our tour guide. She came over and gave us a hug, and her business card. I never realized how hard it must be for tour guides, who travel and meet people from all over the world, then say goodbye and never meet them again. Siako said she teaches English when she's not touring, so I wonder if she's doing that now.
She told us how to get to the subway system, and we parted ways for the last time. Alison and I walked a few blocks to the station, and waited. It was the first train of the day, and there were hardly anybody else there.
We rode the train in silence. It's always weird saying goodbye. I still remember when I first met Alison in Osaka, and I was worried about her touring the city at night. She has since shown me I was wrong, and that she can take care of herself. Apparently, everybody on the tour actually felt I was the one who needed to be taken care of, especially after I went "missing" in Kyoto.
We arrived at the airport, and I helped carry her luggage down the stairs. We found found her reception point first, and we hugged and said goodbye. I was hoping I would run into her on the other side of reception, but I didn't. I got my ticket then, dropped off my luggage, and just like when I arrived in Tokyo a week and a half ago to switch planes, I took a shuttle bus from administration to a different airport gate.
The plane ride to Tokyo was delayed, but otherwise uneventful. I didn't realize just how far apart those two cities are! It's about the distance from Toronto to Vegas, or London to Cairo.
The first thing I noticed about Hong Kong was something I had missed more than I would like to admit: English. Hong Kong belonged to Britain until 1997 when it reunified with China. As a result, English is spoken very fluently by everybody there. China is actually the most English speaking country in the world. Of course the quality of the English isn't perfect, but it's far better than my Mandarin!
I took the train to Kowloon Station, which is about 5 stops from the airport. It was raining out (surprise!) so my pictures of the city are skewed. But boy were they incredible! Once we left the airport, we were surrounded by gigantic buildings. I don't know if they were hotels or apartments. The airport isn't too far from the Disneyland Resort (the smallest Disney Park in the world) so I have a feeling they were hotels. It was then I realized the skyline here was much bigger than anything I had ever seen. Even Manhattan paled in comparison!
After arriving in Kowloon station, I wandered a bit and found a taxi pick-up station. I got in the taxi and showed the driver the address for the Rosedale Hotel. Once we left the station, I immediately took out my camera and began taking pictures. Like all cities, Hong Kong has construction, and they were working on several buildings. However, unlike in North America and Europe, they don't use steel reinforcements -- they use bamboo!
I was dropped off at the hotel and a man asked to take my luggage. I was weary, so he assured me it would be at my hotel room door once I checked in. I handed it over cautiously. You can tell I'm from a small city when I'm nervous to give my luggage to a bellboy!
I entered my hotel and was floored. It had beautiful black marble floors, sparkling elevators, pristine white tables, and the friendliest service people you could find! I was also probably also the only Caucasian in the building.
I got up to my room, found my luggage and fell in love with my room. Not only was it very large and very nice, I didn't have to share it with anybody, it had a cute couch near the window and it was air conditioned! I found a note from Management that talked about the air conditioning. I was enjoying the cool air, but it read "Do not turn below 25". I couldn't believe my eyes! It was 25 in here? Had I become that accustomed to the heat that 25 seemed cool?
I didn't know how long it would take me to get to my hotel today, so I had nothing planned. After walking through Japan for a week and a half, my legs were happy to rest. I Skyped home, talked to my girlfriend and my parents, had a very nice, non-complimentary buffet supper for about $50 ($8 CAD) and went to bed. I was exhausted, but this was the destination that spurred my whole trip. I have no idea what Hong Kong has in store for me, but I intend to find out!
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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I haven't gone on a major trip since my journey to Riding Mountain National Park last autumn, so I booked off a week to travel out west. However, things didn't work out as I had planned, and my vacation turned more-or-less into a staycation.
Thankfully, it wasn't all for naught. I managed to get away one day, and I did a couple of little day trips throughout the week too. The day I got away I wanted to go as far north as possible, and I chose the Cochin Lighthouse.
The Cochin Lighthouse is just north of the Battlefords and it is the only lighthouse in the landlocked province of Saskatchewan. It sits on the top of Pirot Hill in the village of Cochin and shines a light out onto the nearby Jackfish Lake – or as locals call it, the "Cochin Ocean".
Just over a year ago I wrote an article about the glockenspiel that once stood in downtown Regina. I had fond memories of the glockenspiel as a child and was sad when they took it down to renovate the park. I was even more sad when they didn't put it back up, and I was angry when I discovered it was sitting in a junkyard (sorry, outdoor "storage facility") for the past ten years. That article got a lot of attention, from both the public, the city and the press. Today, efforts are being made to restore the bell back to its original location.
I'm telling you this because preserving heritage – may it be a 25-year-old bell, or a fourth century building – is important. Without heritage, we lose who we are. Often, the desire to move society forward steps over the heritage and causes it to get lost. As impressive as tall glass buildings might be, nothing is better than a smoky red brick structure.
Saskatchewan is beginning to realize how important this is – and thankfully it's happening now and not in a few decades after everything is gone. But, our neighbours have been on the heritage preservation band train for several years now, especially in Alberta.
About a year and a half ago I visited Kyiv, Ukraine. As I walked down the millennium old streets and gawked at the towering cathedrals, I saw the beginnings of a new country, one that was slowly rebuilding from a much darker time. The process of what I was seeing had a name. It was called decommunization.
Decommunization includes renaming architecture, changing laws and protocols, and even tearing down monuments. People's Friendship Arch in Kyiv, for example, which symbolised the friendship between the Communist East and the Capitalist West, was torn down. Some statues, like war memorials, are exempt, but there is still talk of making modifications to them. Anywhere you go throughout the former Soviet Union, the hammer and sickle are being removed – not from history, but from modern society.