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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Ever since visiting the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg last summer, I've wanted to include more about First Nations culture on my blog. Being of European descent, I often feel I am culturally blind to First Nations culture, and I noticed a severe lack of it in my writing. In fact, I feel in past articles a lot of my focus has been on European history in the New World, with only a side note regarding First Nations history. Now, I am trying for there to be more equal representation in my blog.
To finish off my #BucketlistAB series, I thought this article would be the perfect place to flip the tables, and instead focus on First Nations culture, with a European side note. Sometimes it is impossible to talk about one without the other, but I tried to focus more on the First Nations people and their story in this article. Please let me know what you think in the comments below.
My article "8 Places to Visit in Regina" is by far my most popular article, being read over 7,000 times in the past 6 months. In honour of the anniversary of my blog (and because 1 of the 8 locations mentioned before is now closed), I decided to do a sequel and talk about 8 more places to visit in Regina. This was really easy as Regina is growing at an extraordinary rate and new, incredible places are opening almost every week.
After the Regina Cyclone huffed and puffed and blew down the majority of houses across the city in 1912, Annie Darke asked her beloved Francis Darke to build her a house that could withstand even the worse things Saskatchewan could blow at it. Being one of the richest and most influential men in Regina’s history, Francis Darke took up the challenge and began to create his wife their very own stone castle.
This massive fortress served as their dwelling for the remainder of their days, until Francis Darke passed away in 1940 and his widowed wife passed away in the very house he had built her, twelve years later.
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.