Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Meiji Jingu Shrine Tokyo


Meiji Jingu
After Hong Kong, we took a 4 hour flight to Tokyo. It was easy to take a train from Narita to our hotel. After muggy Hong Kong, the weather in Tokyo felt divine. The blue skies and sun were a welcome change.
Meiji Jingu
On our first full day, we went to Meiji Shinto Shrine. The grounds are like Central Park - a green oasis in the middle of a big city. But, the grounds here are considered sacred. The forest is less than 100 years old - all the trees were donated to create this space. 
Meiji Jingu
Meiji Jingu
There is a ritual of cleansing before entering a shrine. You wash your hands and mouth for purification. 
Meiji Jingu
We visited on a Sunday and were thrilled to see baptisms and weddings on the property.
Meiji Jingu
The brides were absolutely stunning.
Meiji Jingu
Meiji Jingu
I would like to know more about the Shinto religion - no founder, no holy book, no conversion - just a value of harmony.
Meiji Jingu
Meiji Jingu
Everyone cleared the way for the procession. I bought a new zoom lens before our trip so I was able to stay out of the way but it made me feel better that the wedding guests were taking photos of all the Shrine visitors too.
Meiji Jingu
I loved the traditional outfits in Japan. I was puzzled by the socks and flip flops until I learned that they have special socks with a space between the big toe and second toe. I loved this shrine and felt so invigorated after walking through the space.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Macau - China

Macau
Our last adventure in Hong Kong was a day trip to Macau.  Macau is a former Portuguese colony (like Hong Kong was formerly British).  Hong Kong still has a big city feel and we were curious how much Portuguese influence remains in Macau. You can take a fast boat & get to Macau in about an hour.
Macau


My colleague does a lot of work for gaming clients. Macau is an important market for them - it's one of the richest cities in the world and, I believe, the only place you can gamble in China. 
Macau
Hong Kong felt very shiny and new.  Macau felt more like what we expect of China than Hong Kong. Macau, like Hong Kong, is one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
Macau
Macau


Macau

It was quite rainy when we arrived, but we enjoyed just walking around the city. There are some old fortresses & remains of an old church.

Macau





Macau

Macau
There was only one small section of town that looked Portuguese.

Macau


Macau
And, they had our favorite pastel de nata from Portugal. I was warned that the Chinese palate is not as accustomed to sweets as American/Europeans.


It's true these treats were more eggy than sweet, but we still enjoyed them.

Macau


Macau
While we didn't blend with the locals in Hong Kong, the culture felt more familiar than Macau. It was fun to feel like you were exploring new territory.
Macau
Though, there were some familiar sites. I wish I would have gone into the shop to check out the menu.
Macau
Macau
Macau
Macau
This is the famous Hac Sa Beach. It is supposed to be black sand, but to combat erosion, the government put yellow sand on top.  We didn't see anyone in leisure boats or on the beach anywhere in Hong Kong or Macau.  Perhaps Victoria Harbour is restricted to cargo ships. The weather wasn't great, but I'm not sure how often people go in the water. I read that less than 50% of the population of Hong Kong knows how to swim.
We had a great Portuguese lunch and then headed back into town to check out the main attraction.

Macau
We did go into a casino which was fascinating. You can't take photos inside the gaming rooms, but at first glance it looks like any other casino in Las Vegas. Except you can smoke, but not drink. Instead of pretty young ladies serving drinks, grandmotherly types push around a tea cart with sweets.
Macau
The interiors were just as opulent as the fancy hotels in Vegas.  I think this was the Venetian.
We loved our time in Hong Kong. Such a fascinating city, with lovely people and great food. 




Friday, September 12, 2014

Kowloon Island Hong Kong


Hong Kong at Night
One of the most amazing experiences in Hong Kong is to view the city lights from the Kowloon side of the harbor.

Hong Kong at Night

It was selfie central. 

Hong Kong at Night

Hong Kong at Night
We enjoyed watching everyone pucker up & retake their photos.
Hong Kong
In case you are curious, this is how great the quality of a camera phone is in the dark.

Hong Kong at Night
Everyone comes to see the laser light show which is pretty cheesy. 
Hong Kong at Night
But, it is such a pretty view and the city is buzzing with happy people. Afterward, we walked to the Temple Street Night Markets which were so much fun!
Hong Kong
I was ready to do all my Christmas shopping, but my partner in crime was jet lagged so we called it a night. If you don't get a gift from me this year, you know who to blame.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lantau Island Hong Kong

We stayed in Hong Kong for two days after my conference was over. On the first day, we traveled by train with a work colleague to Lantau Island.  One of the big tourist events is to take a glass bottom gondola to see the Big Buddha.

Lantau

Lantau
They say 40% of Hong Kong is part of a National Park. I don't know why everyone is so concentrated in a small area of the islands. I'm sure access to public transportation dictates where people can live.

Lantau

The gondola was interesting for a while, but the trip was very long.

Lantau

It felt very Gorillas in the Mist.

Lantau

Eventually we made it to the top where there is a little village of shops & restaurants. 

Lantau

Then, you reach the stairs leading to the Big Buddha.

Lantau

Not quite a postcard worthy day.

Lantau Island
Lantau

But, the surrounding areas were very pretty.

Lantau
Lantau

We debated renting a taxi to take a tour of the island, but ultimately decided to head back to explore Kowloon Island.