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.
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera β a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.
The past few weeks have been really busy for me, with a lot more time at the office and a lot less time travelling. Thankfully, the weekend is just around the corner and with it comes the possibility of a two day vacation. Having traveled to Lac La Ronge earlier this month, I've been thinking more and more about these short trips and how rejuvenating they can be.
Unfortunately, I haven't done as much travelling around Saskatchewan as I'd like, so I wasn't sure what the best places to visit were. There were of course the obvious choices such as Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw, but I wanted someplace remote, yet somewhat close. For this project I approached some of my fellow travel bloggers and I got some ideas of what to go do and see for a weekend. I went through their ideas and came up with this short list of 5 weekend destinations in Saskatchewan.
Thanks to TELUS' incredible network, sections of Saskatchewan that once never had coverage can now be fully explored while still being connected to your mobile device. No matter where you travel in Saskatchewan -- or even in Canada -- this summer, you can rely on TELUS' mobile network to keep you connected.
I recently had the opportunity to test drive a 2017 Ford Explorer. I grew up learning how to drive a Ford Windstar so I figured an Explorer shouldn't be that much different. Sure, one is an SUV the other is a van, but a Ford's a Ford, right? Well, not exactly. From the moment I sat down, I knew it would be a very different experience from what I was used to.
There were things about the Explorer I liked, and some that I didn't, but it was overall a very nice vehicle. It drove smoothly, turned nicely and handled grid roads very well. I found the brakes to be a little touchy, but by the time the week ended, I mastered how to brake without awkwardly lurching myself forward.
Beyond the learning curve with the brakes, here are my positive and negative experiences with the 2017 Ford Explorer: