Big City Big Lights

We arrived in Shenzhen around 6 or 7am but thanks to the hard sleeper, felt rested and ready for the big city Hong Kong. First for the next hour or so, we made our way through security, customs, and immigration and hopped on the easy to navigate metro to Kowloon which is part of Hong Kong, and lies north of Hong Kong Island. The first place we checked out to stay in was downright scary in Chungking Mansions which is a run-down building with countless Pakistani and Indian restaurants (totally coincidental we ended up there!), internet cafes and other small electronic shops. While on the elevator, we asked a woman for the correct floor but she insisted we check out this 'other' hotel. We oblige and after she knocks on a door with mysterious stains, a woman half-asleep opens the door and shows us a dimly lit room in a hallway that looked like a setting out of a horror movie. With glazed eyes, we politely nod our heads and say thank you before darting for the elevator door. Luckily we settled into a much cleaner, newly renovated, and safer room which was a big enough to house a bed, bathroom and an area for standing, but we counted our blessings on finding this gem compared to what we had just seen earlier.

Indian and Pakistani men stand outside Chungking Mansions often singing Bollywood songs and were quite persistent with getting Shawn to buy a tailored suit. The city is huge and makes mainland China, heck even New York City look like a suburb. Most of Hong Kong can be seen in a day or two with the highlights including Victoria Peak and the darling of the city, Star Ferry, which is an efficient and cheap way to get around. The lights around Central are dizzying and are at their very best near Victoria Harbour. We enjoyed the city but neither one of us was crazy about it, since after a while all cities start to look alike and not to mention the exorbitant prices, which after China were shocking. One thing about Hong Kong we loved was the diversity from getting Pakistani to Thai and of course English food. We decided to go explore Lamma Island, about a 20 minute ferry ride, which was a welcome respite from the hustle bustle of the city, since the island has no car and most people get around on bicycles. We hiked from the north end of the island to the south, which doesn't take too long but takes in some nice views along with a couple of beaches tucked away in the mountain side.

Our final stop in China was Yangshou in the Guanxi province, so we took the train back across to mainland China, went through the usual immigration/customs and hopped on the sleeper bus to our destination. The highlight of Yangshou are the karst limestone peaks that jut out from the landscape like prehistoric dinosaur spines. The scene is made doubly beautiful by the scenic Li and Yulong River that flows through the landscape and the countryside with buffaloes, fishermen on boats with fishing Cormorant birds, and bamboo boats that ply the waterways. The area is a heaven for trekking, so after doing a boat ride on the Li, we hiked to Moon Hill, name given to its rock shape for views of the peaks. The views were a bit obscured from clouds but hiking through the quiet forest was worth the effort.

We exited China to Vietnam through the Friendship Highway, so from Yangshou we took a bus to Nanning, spent one night there and hopped on the bus to Hanoi, where going after the usual immigration checks, welcomed ourselves to this dragon shaped country.

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