Monday, February 27, 2012

Transportation in Hong Kong: Escalators, Ferries, and more

So how did you get around?

It's one of those questions you hear every time  you come back from a foreign country, as though being mobile were  nearly impossible without understanding the local language or having any resources. It's true that plenty of taxi drivers don't speak English, (even in English speaking countries), and that subway maps have never been easy to understand. Yet somehow, no matter where you go, you manage to get by. In fact, it's something every experienced traveler takes for granted. Indeed, it wasn't after I returned form Hong Kong that I realized how truly mobile I had been.
In a space of only 1,000 square kilometers, I maneuvered through the urban terrain by way of bus, subway, taxi, ferry, and escalator, all with surprising ease and comfort.

The subway is probably one of the preferred methods of transportation by visitors. All announcements are made in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. It is safe, clean, fast, but a bit boring. You don't get to see any of the landscape, and nothing unexpected happens.

The ferry, again, is probably the most touristy thing to do in Hong Kong. That's not to say that the ferry isn't used by locals, it most certainly it, but no trip across Victoria Harbor is complete with the clicking of dozens of tourists' cameras.

I rode a tax only once, and it was to Repulse Bay. The thirty minute drive cost me less than $20 UDS, making that cab ride one of the cheapest in the urban world. Hong Kong's taxis are notoriously cheap.

view from Repulse Bay

The bus was a different experience entirely. I didn't feel like catching a taxi back down from Repulse Bay into the city, and besides, none were to be found. Outside the market there was a woman selling bus tickets behind a glass counter, and she told me the bus would take me down to Central. Oh, she was right about that. What she didn't tell me was that the next thirty minutes of my life would be spent wedged in between 30+ high school students, no doubt on some kind of school trip, clinging onto the seats in front of us trying not to fly out into the aisle every time our bus took a sharp, fast turn down the windy path to Central.

Probably the coolest mode de transport I took in Hong Kong was the escalator connecting Central to the Mid-levels. Deemed the longest outdoor escalator in the world, it absolutely lived up to expectations. The entrance to the sculptor begins  humbly enough, on the ground floor of Central. It's easy to find, by nothing about its looks give one any indication of its size. The escalator is not particularly wide or lavish, but it does go on forever and ever. 

walking down many, many stairs

I got on sometime in the early afternoon. Stopping only once to grab a donut in Krispy Kreme, I rode the whole way up continuously. The higher you go, the more residential things become. The restaurants, bars, and shops start to slowly fade and way, replaced with elementary schools and churches. By the time I got to the top, I was the only person there. It dropped me off right in the middle of a fashionable neighborhood. That was it. The climax. The zenith. Just a row of horses with nicely landscaped lawns. 

It was time to head back down, and then I realized, the escalator went in only one direction…up. Apparently it was something i didn't notice on my way. I just assumed that it is went up, there would also be a mirroring side that went down. It turns out that there is only one escalator, and it only goes on way, at least at certain times. In the morning it runs in the direction from top to bottom, form the Mid-levels to the city. That makes sense because it was originally designed as a method of commuting, not a tourist amusement. Then in the afternoon the direction reverses, and it goes from bottom to top, Central to the Midlands. That was when I got on…and it wasn't going to change anytime soon. I stared down at the staircase beside the escalator. I was going to have to walk down. 

      And I did. How long it took me, how many steps I descended, I didn't both to think consider. All I know is that when I made it to the bottom my shoe had a hole in it, and it went straight into the hotel trashcan when I finally made it back. How long it took me, how many steps I descended, I didn't both to think consider. All I know is that when I made it to the bottom my shoe had a hole in it, and it went straight into the hotel trashcan when I finally made it back.

Lesson learned.

view of Central from the escalator

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Blue fur bag and the party has just begun..

I've been getting all exicited about making accessories lately. This bag is not only one of the first purses I made, but it is also the first time I worked with faux fur. 
I paired it up with a dress I recently made from fabric that was once part of a very ugly vintage skirt. I think I only bought the skirt because I loved the fabric, but after not wearing it once in  almost  two years I decided that it was safe to cut up. I am soooo glad I did...

Dress: Made by me, Random Designs
Bag: Made by me, Random Designs
Ring: thrifted via Goodwill
Shoes: thrifted via Goodwill
Tights: American Apparel

Close up of the ring

Close up of the pattern

Blue fur bag close up

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hey, I've Been There! - Kowloon

I came across this postcard in a bookstore in the US. I immediately recognized that street in Kowloon. When I visited Hong Kong back in 2007, I stayed in a hotel in Kowloon, so I was able to wonder the streets easily by foot. 
See that orange Yoshinoya sign in the top left corner? Remember that. 

Although I did not take any photographs of this exact street from this exact angle, some of my pictures are quite reminiscent. 

This one is most like it in composition. 

This is a shot in at night.

I ate at this Yoshinoya restaurant near my hotel in Kowloon. I don't think it's the same one from the postcard, but it was definitely in Kowloon. I missed Japan too much back then...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Photo Diary: Best of Maizuru

Maizuru is a little fishing village on the coast of the Sea of Japan, in Kyoto prefecture. "Maizuru" means "dancing crane." This is me in front of the Maizuru fish market, doing my "dancing crane" dance.

These are all my friend's purses. I love designer purses. Don't ask me why a picture of designer purses ended up in a photo diary of a fishing village in rural Japan.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Seoul Airport: Incheon

The Seoul Incheon airport was amazing for so many reasons. The fact that it is the first airport I ever photographed is a testament to its wonder. 

Although I didn't fully realize it at the time, arriving at 6:00 a.m. was a great opportunity to experience it in its quiet, pre-dawn hours, where I was left to photograph uninterrupted by the hustle and bustle of airport traffic.

As expected,
American fast food is omnipresent in airport across the world, but of course, with a twist.  
Like Dunkin Donuts' green tea donut. 

Total self portrait. Seeing as how I was traveling alone, there was no other way to capture the magic....

Almost all the Korean food was extremely expensive in the airport, so I spent $8 USD at KFC. It was the best fried chicken I ever had. Spicy, salty, Korean-style friend chicken. I felt like such a sell-out eating KFC at Incheon, but after returned I met several Korean people who admitted loving Korean KFC.

Next time, I am going to try Korean Buger King

Another Ode to mis-matched plaids

Jacket: Thrifted via Goodwill
Dress: Self-made, Fall 2010 Collection
Necklace: Tiffany
Sunglasses: street vendor in Mexico
Purse: Street vendor in Japan

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dallas World Aquarium

My love for aquariums begins here, at the Dallas World Aquarium. In the past two decades that I have been going to this aquarium, I have witnessed it transform from a small, brick building with ten or so fish tanks, to a spacious, multistory complex with a rain forest and shark tunnel. (And a delicious sea food restaurant….hehe). 

Every year I keep thinking that the aquarium is as good as it’s going to get, and every year they keep remodeling it and making it even better. Even after traveling around the globe to visit some of world-class aquariums, I still think Dallas tops them all. Sure, I have a soft spot for my hometown, but prejudice aside, this aquarium is truly a magnificent place. 

Let's begin here, at the rainforest. This toucan will be your guide :)

First we visit the majestic sloth. The sloth is so lazy, he sleeps all day and night. Once at the aquarium, there was a baby sloth who fell asleep while hanging from a branch.
On this particular day, the sloth was awake and eating....very...very...slooooowly...

This is the rainforest part of the aquarium. It is many stories  high and has multiple levels. You start from the top and work your way down...

Here are my turtle friends, happily swimming on a log in the rain forest.

Let's take a quick detour to the flamingo habitat. Check them out...

What the hell is this black-faced bird? I have no idea...

This is the elusive and shy white sloth bear. Here is he seen hiding in a little white hammock.

Here is our other friend, the jaguar. I felt kind of bad for him in the glass cage, but he seemed not to mind.

Now we make our way to the actual fish tanks, on the bottom level of the museum. Here i snapped this fantastic picture of a sea horse.

Giant clams...

All lit up like a rave...

Here is the lionfish. 

Giant sting ray...

Another type of seahorse. He blends in so well, don't you think?

Touchdown Tokyo

Every time I fly to Japan, I have this routine of changing clothes in one of the large, accessible stalls in the arrivals lobby. I would do ...