SB 2014 (Self-Proclaimed Edition)

After 8 weeks of classes and 9 weeks total in HK, we needed a break and an adventure! So, the girls and I booked a weekend getaway to Taipei, Taiwan with Lindsey and I continuing onto Panglao, The Philippines for the rest of the week. Hedvig (Sweden), Lindsey (US), Neila (Sweden), Virginie (Canada) and I booked our tickets and hostel and were ready to go to Taiwan Friday-Monday! We booked it all somewhat impulsively so we only had time for minimal research, leaving much to discover about the city. Here is what our adventures consisted of:

Night 1: Virginie arrived in Taipei this afternoon and checked us into our shared thee-bed hostel. Lindsey and I arrived around 10pm and visited one of Taipei’s famous Night Market’s just feet from our hostel. We enjoyed delicious food, had fun catching up and shared what we hope to accomplish over the next few days in Taipei.
Day 2: We woke up early to pack in a lot during our day. First, a visit to the previous night’s Night Market that had transformed into a Morning Market of yummy fruits and vegetables. Then, we headed to Longshan Temple to see its beautiful architecture and hanging yellow lanterns. After a quick visit, we found ourselves wandering the surrounding streets and visiting various shops. Some of the girls bought little trinkets and beads from their families. Next up, a visit to a street of fortune tellers! While Virginie and Lindsey got chair massages, I got my fortune told. The women asked my first name, my birthday, whether I was born in the morning or afternoon, my boyfriend’s first name and his birthday (which was oddly enough that day). Then, the women opened a small bird cage and a tiny white bird hopped out and chose three cards for love and three for career. Here are some of the things they shared with me: I shouldn’t fight with my boyfriend because he is my prince charming and the one I will end up with; we will get married when I’m 27 and have two kids (1 girl and 1 boy); he and I will be rich; he will be a gentleman; after graduation I will have many enemies but my boss will love me and I will have an international career; I will also have a life full of love, money and a career; houses are good for me to invest in; I am very clever and should listen to my mother and treat her well; my colors are pink, gold and orange; I should focus on my digestive system and not drink Coke or coffee; I will work after marriage until I retire; when I am old I will travel a lot; and age 59-60 will be a low point in my life so I should focus on my health. I thought it was very interesting listening to what the women had to say – let’s see if it all comes true! In the late afternoon, finally the two other girls arrived so we decided to visit the Beitou public hot springs for a dip in the healing waters. They felt good, but it was a little weird with so many people around. Finally, we headed for a second, larger Night Market for dinner and to show the girls that had just arrived what Taipei was all about – good food.
Day 3: The five of us woke up early again and went to the Starbucks on the 35th floor of Taipei 101, a building that was once the tallest in the world. We went to Starbucks because it meant we would be able to enjoy the view without paying the building’s entrance fee πŸ™‚ After enjoying our breakfast, we took a bus ride to a national park to see cherry blossom trees. It was a bit of a let down, but still beautiful and fun to wander around. Then, we took a train and cab to Pingxi. It is a gorgeous area outside of Taipei where people go each year for the Lantern Festival. Unfortunately, the festival was about a month ago, but we still could release lanterns! We bought one to share with four different colored sides: white for future, blue for career, purple for study, and pink for attraction. We each took turns writing our wishes on each side, then we let it fly once it got dark. Afterwards we bought small lantern key chains. Mine represented “happiness and dreams come true.” Next, we began our long hour and a half voyage home and visited a third Night Market for dinner. It wasn’t as good as the other two so we headed back to the Night Market near our hostel before celebrating Hedvig’s 22nd birthday with a small cake.
Day 4: Virginie headed back to HK early, while Neila and Hedvig left later in the evening. Lindsey and I left at around 8am for our flight to The Philippines. It took us two flights and a short cab ride to finally arrive. The second airport was only large enough for one plane and the cab ride from there seemed a bit sketchy. Lindsey and I took turns exchanging, “Is this really it?!” glances, but we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Amarela Resorts! We got in around 6pm and explored the resort before taking a night swim and enjoying a delicious meal, including fresh fruits that we were so badly craving. Finally, we fell asleep to the movie, Supersize Me.
Day 5: We both had a great nights sleep and awoke feeling refreshed! We finally were able to enjoy a western breakfast before heading to the beach and pool. The beaches of Panglao are phenomenal! The white sand and warm, blue water are breathtaking and truly picture perfect! After a long day in the sun, we enjoyed dinner and massages (2 per person for the week were included in our resort package :)) Finally, we fell asleep to a romantic comedy and looked forward to another day in paradise.
Day 6: Another wonderful day of breakfast, the pool, the beach, a light snack of fruit and Ube (a traditional purple yam found in The Philippines that I became addicted to), a night swim, dinner, and the movie, Memoirs of a Geisha to fall asleep to.
Day 7: We decided we should explore the island a bit! So, for about $45US per person, we had a private car take us around Panglao and Bohol. We first visited the Tarsier Conservatory, which feature the cutest little furry creatures with huge eyes. Next we drove through the man made forest of mahogany trees before stopping at the Chocolate Hills, which feature 1000+ hills that stretch for miles. Then, we visited the Butterfly Conservatory for a nature lesson and cool pictures. Then came our favorite parts: zip lining across the Loboc River, then a boat cruise on the river for lunch. The zip lining was spectacular! We went across and back on our stomachs so we could see everything and it was beautiful from that high up! Finally, we visited two of Bohol’s oldest churches, which were destroyed in the earthquake, and a significant sculpture, but Lindsey and I had no idea what it meant (something about blood brothers)?! We returned home for a beach walk, afternoon visit to the pool, dinner, and the movie, The Family Stone.
Day 8: A rough day…NOT! Again, we had breakfast, laid by the pool and beach, enjoyed a romantic dinner together, had our second massages, and fell asleep to the movie, Chicago.
Day 9: Our last day ): We woke up extra early to enjoy our last bit of sun! We had breakfast, laid by the pool, and had lunch before departing for the airport. Again, we had a funny experience at the tiny airport which featured a live band for entertainment. Unfortunately, the airport was only able to manually check us in so we couldn’t check in for our second flight. With only a one hour layover, we had a fun time claiming our bags, getting through security and checking in again before our flight to HK took off…Finally we arrived back at City U around 11pm. It was tough to be home after all of our fun adventures, but we had an exciting Sunday to look forward to!

Sunday: We celebrated Virginie’s 23rd birthday at a chic hotel on the island! From 1:30-5pm we enjoyed all you could eat food and drinks in a cabana. We all dressed up for the St. Tropez theme and had a blast sipping champagne and taking pictures all afternoon. I had hoped to be much more productive today, but with only 8 weeks left, I have to enjoy every second in HK πŸ™‚

I am so lucky to be able to do such great things on this side of the world! There is so much to look forward to still, including my Dad and Step-Mom coming in 3 weeks – we’re off to Beijing for a weekend, then HK for the week, then Thailand! I can’t wait for all that’s to come πŸ™‚

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A Spot Of Tea

This afternoon the girls and I went to the W Hotel for their afternoon tea buffet. It was delicious! For about $40USD you can enjoy tea and all you can eat small bites and desserts while overlooking the beautiful HK skyline for 2 hours. Afternoon tea has been at the top of our list of things to do for a while now and it definitely exceeded our expectations! Up next, we hope to go to Ozone, The Ritz Carlton’s bar and the highest bar in the world.

This past week was fairly quiet since everyone had presentations and midterms. I started off the week with a presentation in Team Leadership and Management. My team presented on the poor practices of Foxconn and I think we did well. On Thursday, I encountered my first exam at City U, a quiz in Japanese Way of Tea. I studied hard and was definitely prepared, but the professors made it unnecessarily hard. They said we would have one easy quiz and one hard quiz…I guess they threw us the hard one first…at least it’s over and is only worth 15% of my grade. On Friday we all headed out to a delicious dinner at 85 South, which was recommended by “Sassy Hong Kong,” a blog we rely on for survival advice in HK. It featured traditional American Southern food in a cool, hole-in-the-wall location. They had great music, a fun crowd, and chill atmosphere. It was obviously a go-to place for ex-pats. After dinner we walked to Soho, another fun area for ex-pats, but a little more pricey. The girls and I found a sports bar with happy hour until 9pm so we snuck in 2 quick rounds of drinks before it ended. They threw us some fast balls with the drinks and we were chatting and laughing all night about our love life, how we met, our high school experiences, etc. It was a blast! I’ve truly enjoyed meeting so many people from all over the world that are so similar to me. I continue to feel lucky to be here and we are already getting sad that our time in HK is half over. None of us can imagine leaving each other and heading back to our home countries. But, at least we still have some fun times ahead and many more memories to make! Like, next week Lindsey, the other girl from IU, and I head to Taiwan and The Philippines for 10 days for a self-proclaimed Spring Break! It’s a hard life I live here in HK, can’t ya tell?!

Do We Get An “I Survived Macau” Shirt?

Wow, last night was crazy! Have you even seen the Hangover movies? If so, that pretty much describes the events that unfolded last night…

Three of my close girlfriends and I decided to get a suite in Macau, the Las Vegas of this side of the world, with roughly 30 other students from schools across Hong Kong. We stayed in a super nice room complete with a beautiful view of Macau and, of course, a hot tub in the middle of the room…obviously necessary. Macau is a short ferry ride away from Hong Kong and you don’t needΒ  a visa, so it’s an easy overnight trip. The girls and our close guy friends from Sweden and Germany left City U around 4pm for the ferry. We headed to the terminal, arriving there by 5pm, but learned the next boat wouldn’t leave until 6pm. We were determined to get there faster to enjoy that hot tub! So, we took a short taxi ride to the next port only to learn that ferry didn’t leave until 6:45pm. As a result, we ended up starting the drinking a little earlier than expected in a McDonald’s – always classy, but they had frozen cokes so I was more than okay with the wait. Finally, we hopped on the hour-long ferry ride and made it to our hotel, The Banyan Tree, by 8:15pm. The two girls hosting us weren’t ready for us quite yet, so the girls and I took over one of the many hotel’s bathroom and began getting ready. We literally transformed and it was funny to come out of the bathroom later and see the guy’s faces – “Wow! What’d you do in that 30 minutes?! How’d that happen?” were the looks they were giving us. We finally headed up to the room and were excited to learn that we were the first ones to arrive. We were like little kids in Disney World, eager to check out every inch of the suite. As people started arriving, the party got going. It was so much fun to meet other students from around Hong Kong, many of which don’t attend City U with us. We spent hours listening to music, dancing, drinking, and talking with everyone. Then, around 1am we decided to head to Club Cubic, easily one of the best clubs I have ever been to! The music was incredible and we all took over the area right in front of the stage while we danced all night. Finally at 6am we headed back. But, of course we had to hit the casino on our way. I played one round in the slot machines and turned $10HK into $35HK (roughly a solid $4 win..booyah!) After Phillip and Clara lost $50HK on a quick game of roulette, we went back to the suite only to find it in shambles – water everywhere, bottles everywhere, doors off the jams, people sleeping wherever they could (if they had even made their way back yet), and the list goes on. The after-math was truly something to be proud of, so we did what anyone would do, we put on our swim suits and finally enjoyed the hot tub πŸ™‚ By 8am we were all getting hungry and restaurants were finally starting to open. So, we threw on some clothes and headed for McDonald’s…again…I’m slowly learning that people from all over the world truly worship McD’s (I, for one, do not particularly enjoy it, but hey, gotta go with the flow). We enjoyed delightful Egg McMuffins, then back to the suite to collect our things. Check-out was at noon and my friends and I were on a mission to be no where near that suite when that time came. So, we headed to the pool lounge chairs with all of our bags to finally get some shut-eye. We slept for about two hours before being woken up by the hotel staff telling us we shouldn’t be there, but they’ll let us sleep for a few more hours before we had to leave. Fine by us – we were just desperate to get some rest after our night. Around 11:30am I decided it was time to make the voyage home. The adventure back to City U was nothing short of hilarious with Lindsey looking more like a homeless person than a tourist. She featured pajama boxer shorts, a long sleeve shirt, a blanket that doubled as a cacoon, and massive sunglasses to hide the effects of last night. Clara was rocking an outfit that resembled last night’s attire and Maureen was sporting some great temple pants from Thailand and her usual black Vans. I somehow managed to throw on a sundress to give off the illusion that my life was together (it clearly wasn’t). We took the bus to the ferry port, the hour long ferry, and the MTR home. Finally, we arrived in our beds around 3pm. All of us were exhausted! Now, I’m awake and reflecting on the events of truly one of the best nights of my life. Macau was good to us – it chewed us up and spit us out, but it was everything we hoped it would be and more!