Saturday 3:00 AM HKT
So this "morning" I had my pick time for classes for next semester. I can't believe I've already picked courses out for the spring 2017 term. My pick time was at 3pm EST, but since Hong Kong is twelve hours in advance my pick time was at 3am HKT! I set an alarm to wake up at 2:30am so that I could check and see if my courses were still open, but I randomly woke up at 2:15am so I decided to just stay awake. Unfortunately only four out of five classes were open, but a business class I want to take "The Legal & Ethical Environment of Business" was added to my schedule by the registrar in advance. However, I did not realize that they had manually added the business course to my schedule beforehand so I panicked when I first saw only four of my courses were successfully added to my schedule. After picking classes I couldn't fall asleep again until 4am, which was bad because I had to wake up again at 7:45am!
The blue dot is where the family's house is, all the way in the New Territories. Very far away from Kennedy Town, which is on the island.
Family Sharing Program
I had to wake up at 7:45am today because I am participating in HKU's "Family Sharing Program". The program is for exchange students to get a better understanding of the culture here. I was matched with a family in which the father was a HKU alum. They had invited me to their house for one of their daughters 8th birthday party. They were to pick me up at a MTR station at 10am, and it was far away so I got on the subway at 9am.
I bought each of the two daughters a little cupcake because I did not know which one's birthday it was. They are ages three and turning eight. When I got in their car the dad was driving, the mom was in the front seat, the two girls were in the middle and another lady was sitting in the back. The lady sitting in the back was not a member of their family, but their maid. Later after talking to her, she told me she was from Indonesia and lives with the family. After getting in the car I offered the girls their present, but they were both shy and didn't say anything. The mom could tell that they wanted the food, but stated that they should not be given the gift if they would not say "thank you" with eye contact. Hmmm, tiger mom maybe?
After getting picked up, we ran some errands for a couple of hours to pick up snacks, drinks and desserts for the birthday party. Then we went back to their house, where we ate lunch (pictured above). The middle picture is what they served me with meat of course, I had to tell them that I did not eat meat. The third picture is of their condo. It had multiple floors with the lowest floor being the family room (third picture). The next floor up was the kitchen and table and the third floor was the master bedroom. After the master bedroom it was the older daughter's room and a small room that their maid sleeps in. The final floor was a messy home office for both of the parents. I thought that their condo was average in terms of quality and space, but every other car in that community (besides that family's) was a luxury car; BMW, Mercedes, Range Rover, Audi, Maserati, Porsche and I even saw two Ferrari's! In Hong Kong the majority of cars are high end, and even Tesla's are a very common sight. While I do see Honda's, Toyota's, VW's, etc. they are few and far between, and they always look brand new. The only old cars that I see here are the taxis.
The birthday party was in a public park, which was about a five minute drive from their house. About fifteen friends came and their parents stayed too. They played lots of games, and had snacks. I talked to some of the parents, as they could speak English too. One of the parents told me that this was not a typical birthday party, that they usually have them in the clubhouse of their community and they are huge events with many guests and they usually have a BBQ.
I had a good day, and the family was very nice to me. They later messaged me inviting me to go hiking with them sometime in November. The blue dot on the map is where I ended up taking the MTR back to Kennedy Town (Hong Kong Island) from. It was very far away and took me over an hour, and I had to ride four different MTR lines. I was very close to the mainland Chinese border by the end of the day. Early to bed for me tonight, I am very tired after waking up in the middle of the night!
Today I only had one class in the morning because I didn't have tutorial in the afternoon, so I was done by 12:20pm. I wanted to run an errand, which I had been meaning on doing for awhile - buying another suitcase. My flight home (and here) is with Delta Airlines, which means that I get one free carry on and one free checked bag. Coming here my suitcases were packed, and by packed I mean there wouldn't have been room for a toothpick to fit. While I haven't bought many items for myself that I will be bringing home, I have bought a good amount of souvenirs and presents. As I am planning on bringing home everything that I brought here, minus some small toiletries that I have used up, I had decided that I will need to buy a third suitcase and pay for it to be checked.
I asked my HKU buddy where a good place to buy a suitcase is, one that wouldn't be too expensive but wouldn't break in transit (Ladies Market). After class I headed over to Wing On, which is a large chain department store here much like Macy's or JC Penny. Most of the suitcases were very expensive, but one of the workers managed to find me a reasonably priced suitcase that looked like it wouldn't fall apart on the way home. It also came in purple, which matched my other luggage! The size of my new suitcase is smaller than my very large suitcase and about the size of my other smaller suitcase. They had larger (and much more expensive) options, but I thought that I could fit everything into this option.
After picking out the perfect suitcase I was pretty hungry, so I decided to try Little Burro. It is very similar to Cali-Mex, with even the same exact prices. This location is closing Monday, so I wanted to try it out before since their other location is much farther away. I ordered the salad bowl which is pictured above. Unfortunately, I did not really like it and paid quite a bit for it. I will be going to Cali-Mex next time I decide to treat myself.
Popular HK Culture
Something that I have found here, that is very different from home is the carrying of drinks. The first picture is of a drink "to go". Many restaurants here (even McDonalds) give guests these bags to "carry" their drinks more easily. Another thing is many water bottles have straps connected to the top of water bottles like the second picture. These are also to help make carrying your drinks easier. I do not have any water bottles like this. Interesting.
Back to School
The first day back to classes after a break is always the worst. Today I had an exam which was pretty tricky. After talking to some friends also in the class, we all agreed that many of the questions had more than one "right" answer but the exam instructed us to choose the best answer. Also a couple of the questions we had never even remembered learning, in class or in the reading. Oh well, I did the best I could!
High Table Dinner #2
Tonight we had our second (out of three) high table dinners. The food was different this time and the menu reflected an "autumn" influence, as they call it (instead of fall). The food was alright, but nothing special.
Sunday: "Day of Rest"
My roommate is coming back sometime tonight, so I was lucky enough to have the room to myself last night and all day today. My stomach is still feeling a bit off, but at least most of the pain in my stomach is gone. I googled "Food poisoning in Thailand" and I am now 99% sure that is what I had. I had every symptom they listed, plus a fever. In the article it stated that food poisoning is very common in Thailand and not just tourists are afflicted with it, locals get it too from time to time. I thought that I was pretty careful with what ate, but I guess not careful enough... Well at least it is good to know (or pretty sure) what made me feel so sick.
Today I mostly relaxed, organized and studied for my midterm exam tomorrow in psychology. I went out and ate veggie dumplings for lunch from my favorite (and only) dumpling restaurant. Afterwards, I went grocery shopping (how grownup!) for some food for the week. I splurged and spent quite a bit of money on salad ingredients for a couple dinners for this week. A tiny bag of spinach and box of strawberries each cost $6+ USD! Being sick I became very home sick, so I decided I wanted to make something from home for dinner even if it is more costly that usual. Other items I bought included blueberries (1/4 pint was $4 USD!), bananas, apples and nuts. I also purchased balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, but unfortunately there were no small bottles and I had to buy large bottles of each. I will definitely have much left over by the time I leave, but I will leave with friends who are staying for the second semester so as to not waste anything. My favorite kind of cheese, fresh mozzarella, or "blob cheese" (as I call it), is missing from the grocery stores here so I will unfortunately have to wait until December to have any. There are so many foods and restaurants that I am looking forward to when I come back.
My Most Missed Foods & Restaraunts
Well I should probably go back to studying... Tomorrow is a busy day, I have three classes plus a midterm exam and the second Chi Sun High Table dinner.
Singapore Day 3
I felt a little better today, and ate some food for breakfast but haven't felt hungry since. We had to check out today by 12pm, and we went to the airport straight afterwards for our flight at 3:45pm. The flight back to Hong Kong was three and a half hours. During the flight this Asian woman had an outburst and screamed in Chinese, ran across the aisle and hit her husband (I'm assuming). It was so strange and the flight attendants looked as if they did not know what to do. Some other lady talked to the one who had yelled and calmed her down. I thought it was totally inappropriate behavior and that she should have been disciplined accordingly.
I didn't get back to my dorm until almost 9pm, and by then I was very tired. I unpacked everything and then went to bed shortly after.
Singapore Day 2
After returning from being out last tonight, I began to feel sick. I felt terrible stabbing pains in my stomach and had to get up every hour and use the bathroom. I barely got any sleep and I don't know what caused this sickness. Since I barely slept last night and I still felt sick this morning I stayed in bed all day, sleeping on and off. I don't think I have ever felt worse in my life, and I'm sad I couldn't explore Singapore much while I am here (we are leaving tomorrow afternoon). However, I knew I definitely felt too weak to go out today. Everyone else went out to see Singapore, so it was very quiet. I am really hoping that this was just a 24 hour sickness and I am feeling better tomorrow, or the plane ride will be miserable.
Singapore Day 1
Today we flew from Phuket, Thailand to Singapore. The flight was short and I was able to move my seat and sit next to the window, and then there was no one in the middle seat. After arriving at the airport we went straight to where we were staying. This place was very nice too, and was decorated in all blue (by blue I mean everything was blue). The owner had left us a ton of snacks, drinks and toiletries.
After arriving we were all tired so we took naps. When we woke up we were hungry so we decided to go out for dinner and some exploring. We ate in the Marina Bay Sands mall, which was the fanciest and nicest mall I have ever seen. Following dinner we went to see a short fifteen minute light and water show that was over the harbor. I'll post pictures later.
Phuket Day 4
Wow I can't believe today is already our last full day here! We are leaving tomorrow morning to fly to Singapore. Today, two of us rented motor bikes and drove around Phuket for the day. However, I decided to sit this one out because I wanted to rest and get some things done. Today was my day of rest and I ended up taking a nap.
For dinner we went to the "No. 9 2nd Restaurant" and since we had eaten there twice before (for a total of three times), we were inducted into their photo wall. After dinner they took a picture of us with three of their workers, and we will be hung up next to the hundreds of other pictures on their walls. I hope to come back to Thailand one day - it would be so cool to see us up there still.
Tomorrow morning our flight is at 9:20am, so another 6am wake up to leave for the airport. Thailand was so much fun despite the rainy and cloudy weather. On to Singapore in the morning!
Phuket Day 3
Today we had decided to do one of those all day adventures that were advertised every two feet at a tourist stand in Pa Tong. However, we booked online as we figured it would be much cheaper. It was another cloudy day to start, and poured during some parts of the trip. We were picked up at 8am from where we were staying, and then traveled about an hour or so to where we would depart from.
Our first stop was Hong Lagoon, where we got off the speedboat and got into inflatable kayaks with a guide. The fourth photo on the top row shows a mummy, I'm not sure if it's real or not but the guide pointed it out to us. On a sunny day the water is a clear turquoise, but unfortunately it was never sunny when we were there. Even though it was rainy and cloudy it was still really cool to see this sight.
James Bond Island
Our next stop was James Bond Island or Khao Phing Kan which is where the famous James Bond Movie The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed. It is one of the most visited tourist sights in Phuket, and these pictures do not do this spot justice. You should look up "James Bond Island" and you will see the clear water on a sunny day. When we stopped here it was unfortunately downpouring most of the time we were there.
After seeing James Bond Island we stopped at Panyee Island, which is a Muslim floating village where they served us a buffet lunch. At this point I was starving as I had not eaten any breakfast, so I overindulged and ended up eating way more than I should've. They also had many items for sale, but they were all very expensive so I did not buy anything.
After finishing lunch we headed to Panak Island where we explored a cave. The ground was very slippery and felt like clay. Once we got to the end of the cave, there was a tiny gap in which we could see a beautiful lagoon.
This was our last stop of the day before returning back to the pier to get on the shuttle van to go back. Even in cloudy weather you can see how clear the water is. The water was also very warm. As soon as we stepped foot on this beach there were many hawkers who immediately rushed up to you and tried to sell you drinks and activities. There were many people that were selling jet ski rides, banana boat rides, parasailing, etc. but they were all pricey. Two of us (not me) decided to rent jet skis for twenty-five minutes.
We all had a good time, and made the best out of the bad weather. The experience definitely would've been better with sunny skies, but I have now decided that I will return to Thailand in the future to do this tour once again (but with good weather). If anyone is planning on going to Thailand I would highly recommend the James Bond tour, but to pick your tour company carefully. All in all, it was worth the experience and we were able to book this all day adventure for a very low price.
Phuket Day 2
Today it was raining in the morning and then stopped for a period of time, so we decided to go to Tri Trang beach to see some elephants. A friend who studied abroad at UConn last year visited Thailand a couple of months ago, so I was able to get a recommendation from her on where to go. We walked to Pa Tong beach and then took a tuk tuk from there to Tri Trang beach. As soon as we got in the tuk tuk it started to pour. We were hoping that by the time we got there it would stop.
When we got there there weren't many people on the beach. That beach is much nicer than the Pa Tong beach, and the water is much cleaner/nicer. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy and rainy day so the water didn't look as nice as it would when the sun's out. We were all hungry so we got lunch at the only hotel/restaurant on the beach. I got fish and chips with coconut juice.
After lunch it was time to check out the elephants. Unfortunately, it was cloudy the whole time but that was not going to stop me from seeing them as I had been waiting the whole trip to experience them. There were two baby elephants, one was named Yaya (but I couldn't quite understand what the owners said the other one's name was).
I was able to have half an hour with them. They were so cute and intelligent! The elephants knew many tricks - giving kisses, squirting water, hugging you, picking up their foot, lifting you in the air, etc. To give you a kiss they took their trunk and "kissed" you on the nose and mouth. It felt like a suction cup!
It was the best time playing with them in the water - I wish I could bring them home with me! After my time was up, I bought some bananas to feed to them - they ate them whole and scarfed them down quickly. This was definitely the highlight of my trip!