2007 Hong Kong & Bangkok
2 nights at Hong Kong Disneyland followed by 4 nights in Hong Kong and 4 nights in Bangkok
In June 2007, after much consideration, I decided to travel to Hong Kong and Bangkok for a late summer vacation. At one point, I considered stopping in Japan for a day or 2 since most flights connect through there, but ultimately I decided to spend more time in the new cities I'd be visiting. The most exciting thing about this trip was that I'd be visiting some new countries for the first time since 1994. (I've been to new places since then, but I don't think any new countries)

For my first time traveling abroad, I took a laptop with me. I also had a brand new digital camera since I discovered the day before I left that my old one was eating too many batteries. Having a much lighter camera with a larger memory card proved to be a blessing- and the combination of camera and laptop made it easy to share my thoughts and pictures as I traveled. These reports are based heavily on blogs I wrote live on one of my message boards while I was away.
Not sure how often I'll be able to update- especially since I lugged my laptop here without realizing I don't have an adapter for 3 pronged plugs... I will eventually try to do something about that, of course.

Anyway, quick note that I arrived in HK safe and relatively uneventfully- except for feeling beyond dead on the Tokyo-HK leg (after I'd already been on the go for some 24 hrs or whatnot) It was basically a peaceful trip.

You know that you have a long time for your connection when your next flight is not even listed on the departures screen, as happened when I arrived in Chicago. I realized that I am an easygoing traveler when I laughed at the lady at O'Hare who got all bent out of shape that 2 straight ladies rooms were closed. (1 being cleaned, 1 being under construction) If that's the worst issue when traveling, I'll take it. LOL I spent some time reading my book on Hong Kong and I also spent time people watching and just generally enjoying the excitement of the airport.

On the flight to Japan, the guy next to me kept leaning on the arm rest and accidentally re-setting my personal video screen- fortunately, we both laughed about it. He could read Japanese- I was jealous. :P I was awake for most of the flight and was therefore able to finish my book on Hong Kong. The idea of a 13+ hr flight is worse than the reality of it.

It was exciting to be back in Japan, even if just for connecting to another plane. I was disappointed in the lack of interesting shops in Narita- although I did see a poster with Mao Asada on it promoting Japan/Canada... so there was that. I meant to take a photo of it, but was too dead to dig out my camera. There were also a lot of cute Hello Kitty things, and I almost got a Hello Kitty folding umbrella since I didn't pack one. Didn't want to spend money so soon, though- maybe I will pick up something on the way home.

I would have been more excited to arrive in Hong Kong except for the fact that I'd been traveling for so long and through 12 time zones. After visiting the ATM, I took a cab to my hotel- I chose to stay in Disney's Hollywood Hotel at Hong Kong Disneyland for my first 2 nights since HK Disney is not too far from the airport. Cabs are pretty cheap in HK, anyway.

It was dark and pouring rain when I arrived, and it was only a short cab ride. The colorful Disney cheerfulness of the hotel was most welcome, although the gift shop was closed by the time I got situated in my room; I walked around outside a little instead- it had stopped raining by this point. I didn't linger too long because I wanted to get to sleep at a decent time so as to get an early start the next morning.
I called Guest Services at my hotel this morning to ask where I might be able to find an adapter/converter for my computer's 3 pronged plug. They told me to check the drawer under the TV. I felt a little stupid but, to be fair, this was not the same drawer in which I'd found the ethernet cable last night. That won't help me in subsequent hotels, but my next hotel is in downtown HK and I am sure I can buy something around there.

I slept well- woke up 1/2 hr before my alarm and looked out the window and was motivated enough by the view to stay awake. I walked around outside by the pool area, which is much more photogenic by daylight than it had been last night. (it's also more photogenic when one is carrying a camera than when one is not LOL)

Because it was still early, I decided it would be a good idea to eat. Having not eaten a decent meal since ???, I decided it would be a great idea to eat at the breakfast buffet at Chef Mickey's. I started off at the Western style section but I did eventually sample some of the Eastern dishes, including a really yummy thing that was pork in a bread puff. (which probably has a better sounding name than what I am calling it. ;) ) Stupid tourist moment: after I was done, I sat there for awhile and didn't know if I was supposed to get a bill (I had given my room # when I was seated); once someone chased me down with the bill on my way out, I realized I was supposed to have signed the bill. Ooops.

OK, off to the park! And maybe the pool later, depending on my mood.
I came back to the hotel in the late afternoon because I was getting hot and needed a break; pool looks way crowded so am chillin in my A/C room.

HK Disneyland is a lot like I expected, except more crowded. It's not at all packed compared to the US parks, really, but from the reports I'd read, I expected it to be empty. Not a lot of attractions but I was there 6 hrs and there were plenty I didn't get to. (am only slightly bitter that I missed seeing one of the shows because I lingered to take a photo- people right in front of me were the last cut off :P)

BTW I was disappointed that I didn't see anyone peeing in potted plants- several people had told me to expect that.
Some pix from my day so far...

Tiffin it up with Belle soon after I entered the park
Castle is pretty, but tiny
Whee! I snapped a photo while riding Dumbo
Poster I liked in the entrance to Mickey's Philharmagic
I ate lunch at the Royal Banquet Hall, a "fast food" place that is a step (or 2) above the usual theme park fast food
My lunch! I decided to be adventurous and ordered the steamed Dim Sum which came with corn and ham chowder soup, and I got a Watermelon Juice just because it was different. LOL (loved the food, though the juice wasn't as tasty as I'd hoped)
Boarding area for Space Mountain
I took a photo of the photo I didn't buy of me on Space Mountain
Same with Winnie the Pooh
Enjoyed getting wet at the Waterworks parade
More Waterworks parade
Rainbow girl at the end of the parade

It's been a fun day. Tomorrow I'm going to have to actually come up with a plan of things to do. ;) The nice thing about Disney parks is that you just go, and don't have to much worry about anything once you get there.

And I'm now a proud member of those who have been to all 5 Disney resorts worldwide! Yay! (CA, Florida, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong)
I went back to the park to see The Golden Mickey's show that I had just missed earlier in the day- very nice. I was denied the chance to eat at my sit down restaurant of choice for dinner because they were full for the night so I ended up going for quick- serve teriyaki chicken burger, which was good.

I could go back tomorrow because there is a ticket deal for hotel guests for 2 days for the price of one... but even though there were some things I didn't get to see, I think I'll pass on that. One day was fine- the things I missed aren't anything super amazing.

One thing I always have to be mindful of when shopping in Asian countries is that I can't automatically grab a size small shirt as I do in the US. I bought myself a lavender and pink HK Disneyland T-shirt today; I got a large and I'm glad I didn't get a smaller size! Naturally, I picked up some things for my nieces too. :) Oh, and I got myself a set of chopsticks with Marie (white kitty from the Aristocats) on them.

Evening pix, plus others that I hadn't resized earlier...

And what is a day at Disney without Fireworks?
After lounging in my room, I checked out and decided to splurge for a taxi to my next hotel. Too hot to deal with public transit with all my luggage, and besides, I got to squee about all the sights I got to see on the way- "Wow, this is one long bridge", "We must be on Kowloon now", "I am not sure I've ever seen a 1 way street that you had to turn off because on the next block it becomes 1 way in the opposite direction" LOL

My room wasn't ready, so I figured I'd walk around for a bit. There's an Esprit outlet right down the road, so I won't run out of clothes- I already saw a T-shirt I need to get. Down from that is a 7-11... and I was just as excited to go there because I love seeing what beverages and candies they have in other countries. They have Pocari Sweat here, one of my fave Japanese sports beverages (although they also have it at the Asian market near home, which makes it slightly less exciting to find on my travels than it used to) And they have crispy mint M&M's which I absolutely must try! :) (Capuccino Kit Kats too- but I think I've seen those in Japan)

After that, the waterfront area beckoned. And I was like a kid in a candy store because I didn't know which way to turn and because everything was new and exciting. There's the Star Ferry Terminal to my right- but to my left was a mall... dilemma!

I decided to snap a photo of the Star Ferry and go into the mall first. At the Lane Crawford department store, there was a sign that said "Be Amazing" and I figured I'd take that advice. :)

Then I was off at the Avenue of the Stars, enjoying the view, snapping tons of photos, and feeling very hot. I got a BonAqua sports drink which was ok; better than their bottled water which reminds me of Dasani or AquaFina, both of which I detest. (this made it slightly problematic to stay hydrated at Disneyland) I've only resized 1 photo for now- possibly more later.

Hit another mall- there were some old fashioned cars there and I noticed a sign by a model T Ford that told me it was there for photo taking only. So I assumed that meant I ought to take a photo.

I finally got myself an Octopus card for public transit- I'd forgotten to pick one up at the airport though I hadn't needed one yet. Did walking down some random streets and Nathan Road. I found a cute store called something like Trendyworld- they had lots of Hello Kitty and Disney stuff, though nothing as voidy at the MTR Hello Kitty Train and Theme Song CD that is a current promo item if you take enough subway rides (see http://www.mtr.com.hk/eng/whatsnew/r..._kitty07_e.htm)

I eventually went to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe which I stumbled across; had Apple Bacon Tomato Soup followed by a delicious Salmon with miso seasoning- all for $15, including an Evian water. It felt good to sit down for a bit. After I took a photo, the guy there insisted on taking one of me even though I protested that I looked horrible.

Then it was time to get into my room. "It's fun to stay at the YMCA" Except this YMCA has nice private rooms with amazing views. (another view) And they also had a power adapter/converter to lend me so once again I did not need to buy one. Even the guy who just came in to fix the window (which I hadn't known was broken) was very nice. LOL Anyway, it's a great price for an amazing location- and they even have room service. I don't really need swanky; give me a water view and stuff to do in walking distance and I will be very happy. :)
So after taking a mid-afternoon break to get situated in my hotel, I decided to head over to Hong Kong Island to take a walking tour from my Lonely Planet guidebook. I'd finished reading a book on Hong Kong on the plane that mentioned a few of the buildings on the route.

I took the Star Ferry over- it's dirt cheap, literally pennies, and it's right by my hotel.

Walking around Central Hong Kong was interesting in that even though it is a city full of skyscrapers, it really didn't have that generic "Urban metropolis" feel. First off, it was cleaner than many cities. ;) But beyond that- I noticed that I was never too far off from the sound of water... waterfalls, or fountains. I think it's all the Feng Shui- but it really makes a difference, and adds some character. As an example- there are waterfalls on both sides of the large Bank of China skyscraper.

Speaking of the Bank of China building... my guidebook said that there is a public observatory on the 43rd floor. There was no signage in the building, but I took an elevator up anyway. No one yelled at me. Nice view. There was also a model of HK- and I snapped a voidy picture which juxtaposes the model with a reflection of the view. (the window was behind me)

There were also a couple parks and such along the route. One was Charter Garden. The other was Hong Kong Park, where I saw fish, a cute frog sculpture, and took a photo behind a waterfall. Actually, I took tons of photos, but I think the ones I found most interesting (and chose to post) were ones that show the juxtaposition of the greenery with the skyscrapers in the background- like this one and this one.

After the tour, I realized that I was near the tram/ funicular to The Peak. (thanks to the excellent signposts that are ubiquitous) I wasn't so sure about riding it (I have issues with heights ) but I figured I had to. It actually wasn't scary, even though it was very steep at times- it was kinda neat. And what a view! (view from another angle)

Time for an ice cream break at Haagen Dazs, followed by a purchase of Perrier Cherry Ginger something to quench my thirst. (it was quite good- the flavors were very delicate and not overpowering) I went in the Peak Galleria shopping plaza and snapped a photo of this pig sculpture because it was there. LOL Also bought my nieces each another little something. :)

There is a viewing deck at the top of Peak Tower, which is the building where the tram lets you off. I was nervous enough taking the escalator up one floor to get out of there, so I figured no way would I be able to go to the roof. But, after walking around elsewhere a bit, I decided to conquer my fear and went back with a mission. Maybe the ice cream emboldened me. ;) At any rate, I took escalator after escalator- first ones with a view outside and then ones that were rather voidy. And eventually I made it. Views were even more fab from there.

Even though I was looking uber untiffed after walking around in the humidity all day, I had someone take my photo so I'd have proof that I was there. I lucked out in that I was there at the perfect time to catch the sunset which made the city view even more dramatic.

By the time I got back to the Star Ferry to go home, it was dark so I could see the glittery lights of downtown HK fading away as I traveled back to the lights of Kowloon. Not only is everything lit up, but many of the lights "move" or change colors. I stood up the whole ferry ride and enjoyed the view.

Every night, there is a Sound and Light show on the harbor featuring a lot of the buildings. I'm sure the Peak offers optimal views of both sides of the harbor but it was already getting crowded and I was getting hungry/ tired so I wanted to be near my hotel. Although I could see it from my room, I wanted to watch from the harbor so I went back to the Avenue of Stars. Unfortunately, they were narrating in Putonghau and not English tonight, but the narration is only for the first part. (there are radio simulcasts in 3 languages and I guess they alternate which ones are piped in over the loudspeaker)

My camera isn't so hot at night photos and I spent a lot of time trying to adjust the settings, but I did get a few decent ones: cruise ship passing while waiting for the light show to start, Light show 1, Light show 2, Light show 3. It was hard to catch the lasers and lights that were shooting out from the tops of buildings. At any rate, it was a neat little show- it's the sort of thing that makes the city seem a little more sophisticated and also more friendly; in the US, I can't imagine any city having a free light show every night. That is more of a Disney thing.

Grabbed a few things at 7-11 (notably the Crispy Mint M&M's and a Schweppes Zero Cream Soda) then ordered spaghetti off the room service menu. I did a ton of walking today, including up and down stairs/ ramps. Thank goodness I'm in great shape.

No idea what I plan to do tomorrow but I am going to sleep in- or at least I am not setting my alarm. (I've awakened before the alarm for the past 2 days)
p.s. thank goodness I picked up a new camera! I've taken 280 pix so far, including 130 today, and have had no issues with batteries running out. And I'm obviously starting to get the hang of the new camera.

Also forgot to mention- walking around earlier today, I saw a group of 3 people whom I'd definitely seen in line for Space Mountain at Disneyland yesterday. Not sure if they recognized me, but they did seem to look at me.
After I got up, I decided to go on a day trip to Macau. I'd been debating whether or not to do this- I'd been curious to see it since I'd read several novels that mentioned Macau (most notably works by Shusaku Endo that talk about missionaries in Asia) but I'd also read reports that it isn't worth seeing. Ultimately, I figured I ought to see it for myself. In brief, I felt it was very worthwhile- however a short day trip was enough. My summary of Macau is "Extravagant modern Las Vegas meets old world Portugal... with some slummy looking places in between"- so it was definitely unique. LOL

There are 2 ferry companies that go to Macau- I chose to go by the one further from my hotel because my guidebook said that service was more frequent. So I took the Star Ferry across the harbor and walked to the terminal I needed. The trip over was uneventful- but I had a total Amazing Race void when I spotted the Macau Tower as we pulled into the harbor. (took a proper photo later in the day) Even pulling into the harbor, it was quite clear that this was a casino town.

There were actually a couple points today when I almost wanted to turn around and crawl back into bed- I thank everyone reading this for giving me the strength to go on. (in other words, I didn't want to come back and have nothing to post) The first of these was being in the huge lines for immigration in Macau- fortunately, the Visitors lines were shorter than the lines for HK/ Macau residents which were completely insane. (the Visitors line, in contrast, was only moderately insane) The second of these was when I had no idea where to go after exiting the terminal. I didn't want to take a cab or a bus because I like to experience cities by walking around and finding my own way... however impractical that may sometimes be.

But eventually I figured it out and started walking to the place where the Lonely Planet walking tour would start. On the way, I was able to marvel at some ostentatious sites. I actually enjoy gazing at such architecture, although I probably wouldn't want to live near it. LOL

I think I regret not taking more casino photos. ;) It seems that there are a lot of casinos going up lately- apparently, they have their own version of The Venetian that opened this week but it was not near where I was.

One of the best things about taking walking tours from guidebooks is that it makes it much easier to identify photos- especially when one has visited several churches. The following sites were included as part of the 2.5 km walking tour- in chronological order. (side note- I probably had to walk 1-2 miles to get to the start... in the heat and humidity...)
  • Largo do Senato (Senate Square) I was glad to see some pretty buildings when I got here. And nothing says old world charm like seeing the ubiquitous golden arches. LOL I actually stopped for a small chocolate shake- got confused for a second when they wouldn't take my money but apparently at least some places only take Hong Kong bills- not coins.
  • Church of St Dominic When I went inside, I saw other people snapping photos so I took one of the chapel and several of details around the chapel. Upstairs was a Treasury of Sacred Art which had the dual advantages of being cool and being completely uncrowded. And oh yeah, there were neat Christian artifacts to see.
  • Macau Cathedral After I went inside and snapped a photo, the sound system which had been playing calming music went haywire for a second. I felt it was a bad omen and I exited as quickly as possible...
  • Monte Fort was up a huge incline- my goodness, I am glad I am in good shape! There are escalators too, but the walking tour had us using them on the way down. But it had some nice views- and cannons.
    (here's where you can see the construction of the tower for the Grand Lisboa casino mentioned earlier- not at all ostentatious, is it? ;) ) Here is a detail from somewhere going up the fort.
  • Church of St Paul facade (seen in the background of this photo) You can climb a platform to look out the windows at the top of the facade. I was completely scared because it is one of those platforms made of scaffolding that you can see through... so I basically climbed up, snapped a quick photo, then got down as soon as possible.
  • lots of walking on little side streets- some busy, some so deserted that I questioned whether I was in the right place
  • Church of St Augustine
  • A-Ma Temple which has a boulder depicting a traditional sailing ship and other Buddhist detail. My guidebook did not warn me that as you walk up the stairs, there are a series of poor old women sitting and begging for money. It was really sad to see, but I didn't have any change on me. Fortunately, they were only begging in Chinese so it was easy to act like I didn't understand.

Afterwards, I decided to walk back to the ferry terminal- even though I knew it was not a short walk (probably 2 miles or so). I kept thinking I was going the wrong direction, even though I wasn't, but eventually I walked along Avenida da Republica, which was a charming walk- there were several people sitting and fishing in the adjacent reservoir.

I got back to the terminal at around 5:30 pm (yes, I was walking in the heat pretty much for 5 hrs straight)... and it was chaos! I wanted to book the earliest trip back, but TurboJet was booking a 7:45 pm for the equivalent of First Class... and I can't even recall how late the next economy was. So I went to book the 7:45- which was 8:00 by the time I could actually book it. After walking around in a lame attempt to find something decent to eat, I noticed they were now booking a 7:00pm for economy- WTF?!? :P

Then I noticed another area where they were selling tickets to the First Ferry, which travels to Kowloon- closer to my hotel. It was now almost 6:00pm and they had a 6:30pm launch. I had a total Amazing Race moment as I decided to get in line to buy a ticket for that one. Since I was only one person, I think I got the very last one. (for their Deluxe Class) Yay! Only difference from Amazing Race was that it was my money... but it was worth not being stuck at the terminal for another 1.5 hrs.

I found the First Ferry experience to be completely voidier than TurboJet. Deluxe Class offered peanuts, cookies and a choice of beverage, all of which were most welcome. But, beyond that, they were showing a total voidy cartoon on the monitors about a monkey whose banana was stolen. LOL Then there was the voidiness of several antismoking videos with English subtitles ("If you are a cab owner, can you smoke in your own cab when awaiting a fare *screen change* The answer is No!" followed by one with cheesy re-enactments of people advising their friends not to smoke because of all the Really Bad things it does, including the fact that no one likes second hand smoke! And you can save money by not smoking! I think Jackie Chan was in the latter video) These videos were interspersed with the kind of videos you'd expect- for example, highlighting things to see on other Hong Kong islands as we passed them. There was also a camera mounted at the front of the ship where you could see Kowloon drawing closer as we reached port- sort of like they have on Japanese airlines.

Customs at that terminal was nothing, and I was able to get back to my room just in time to watch the Symphony of Lights show on the harbor. It turns out that the narration I'd missed yesterday (which I caught on the radio) was mainly an introduction to the buildings. ( photo 1, photo 2, photo 3, photo 4 ) It was nice having a slightly different perspective.

Room service dinner again. (no, I didn't really eat a proper lunch... kids, don't try this at home, it's very bad for you to skip meals. Actually, I'd tried to eat at an Italian restaurant mentioned in my guidebook but it didn't open for dinner until 6pm. At least I'd eaten some breakfast- I'd brought boxes of cereal from home)

I've read a number of opinions not to bother visiting Macau, but I really thought it was worthwhile. I could have spent more time there, but I was tired and I am not really a casino person (except for checking them out on the outside). And I'm also not a person who is into doing extreme things off of Macau Tower. ;)
After a lazy morning, I ventured out to the Hong Kong Museum of History. I spent a good deal of time exploring the permanent exhibition of "The Hong Kong Story". I enjoyed the slow pace, and it was nice to sit down a few times and watch some short films (they were either in English with Chinese subtitles or Chinese with English subtitles- the languages rotated) It was also nice to be in A/C. :)

The exhibitions started out with more of an anthropological feel, but I was more interested in the latter exhibits which had more of a historical feel. Still, the displays in the earlier areas were quite impressive:
  • Entrance to the exhibit galleries
  • Tiger and bear in the "Natural Environment" (no, I didn't see any lions...)
  • "Prehistoric Hong Kong"
  • "Folk Culture in Hong Kong" had some visually appealing displays including one of the lion dance and one of Chinese opera.
  • "The Opium Wars and the Cessation of Hong Kong" is where I started getting more interested in the actual content behind the exhibits, although I'd already learned a lot of the information from my reading.
  • "Birth and Growth of the City" described further developments in trade
  • "The Japanese Occupation" described the conditions when Japan occupied HK in WWII in more detail than the books I'd read; I'm particularly interested in WWII history so this was very fascinating to me. I've been interested in learning about the Asian experiences during WWII because in school we learned a lot about the Holocaust but I was never quite sure how the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor fit in. Clearly, the history classes in my high school were quite lacking. :P
  • "Modern Metropolis and the Return to China" included the reconstruction of a grocery shop, a film on Hong Kong Cinemas and TV of the 60's and 70's and exhibits on Hong Kong's emerging post war industries, such as the toy industry. It ended with a film documenting the handover back to China in 1997.

The museum also had a special temporary exhibition of "Major Archaeological Discoveries of China in Recent Years". I'm not really sure why I purchased a ticket to this, as I am not at all interested in Archeology. I kinda breezed through this exhibit, although there were definitely some neat looking things. (no photography allowed there)

I naturally browsed through the museum gift shop- which oddly had some really cute stickers for the nieces as well as a Disney princess glittery purple pen for me.

I'd intended to go to the Science Museum across the way, and I even made it through the doors. But I'm really not a museum person so I didn't feel I'd have the patience to really enjoy it, after already lingering at the History museum. However, I did enjoy seeing the Dinosaur display outside.

I decided it was time to shop! I set out for the MTR station, but only a few blocks into my journey I stopped because I found something I really wanted to take home with me. Unfortunately, I couldn't. So I wanted to take a photo. As I got my camera ready, the subject of my photo spotted the camera strap and was climbing up the window to try to get it- as can be seen. I stood and played for a little while- at one point, a family came over and the little boy laughed with glee as kitty tried to play with my camera string. I couldn't have understood a word that boy had said if he'd tried to talk to me, but cats and laughter are a universal language. I didn't want to leave, especially when kitty kept looking at me with pleading eyes, but eventually I had to. There was another cat in the window that might have resembled BelleKitty but it was sleeping the whole time and I didn't want to disturb it. I think the kitty voids were my favorite part of the day! I hope kitty finds a nice home soon, full of people who have lots of string to play with...

I found a shopping center on my way, and they actually had a Lush which made me happy. For some reason, I had a difficult time finding it from the directory map but eventually I was able to find it and thus get my hands on some bath bombs and a bubble bar to use at my hotels.

That shopping center had a store with all sorts of cute dog T-shirts and clothing... and I thought it was mightily unfair that they had no cat things. :P

Of course I didn't want to carry my Lush goodies across town, so I stopped at my hotel since it was near the subway station. On the way, I went into the Esprit outlet and bought the T-shirt I'd eyed a couple days ago as well as another one. Once back at my room, I ended up taking a nap. LOL, I think I really needed one.

Once refreshed, I headed to Tsim Sha Tsui station for my first ride on the Hong Kong subways. Very shiny and modern- the car had a subway map with blinking lights to let you know what station you are going to, and also which side the doors will open.

I was headed to Pacific Place mall, which was fun to browse although many of the shops were too swanky for my humble tastes. (we're talking Versace, Prada, Louis Vuitton... Johnny Weir would probably have been in heaven...) Their branch of the Lane Crawford department store, like the one I'd seen on Harbor Place, was also telling me to Be Amazing.

Across the street, directly accessible through a bridge, were more shops. Including one that was selling purple glittery sneakers.

I left the malls with no purchases, except for some Spaghetti Carbonara. Remember how I saw a store with cute dog things earlier in the day? I saw another branch at the subway... but this one had a Hello Kitty section attached. Err, I ended up buying a camisole to sleep in and a T-shirt, which were packaged in a Hello Kitty plastic bag. They were both on sale.

On the way back to my hotel, I stopped at McDonalds- and noted that this one had an upscale McCafe attached- sort of a Starbucks wannabe. I don't think I've ever seen these in the US. At any rate, I got a Happy Meal with a cute toy at the regular old Mickey D's.

Back at the hotel, I watched the Symphony of Lights again- I can't grow tired of it. Then it was time for a long bath using one of my new Lush bath bombs- pretty hot pink water!

I also decided I will save my other Lush goodies for the next hotel... because I learned the hard way that the draining system in this one... is a little lacking. If you try to drain the tub too quickly, the water ends up coming up through the drain in the bathroom floor, thus flooding the bathroom. Fortunately, I noticed this very quickly. I ended up standing and holding the drain thingie so that just a little water was being drained at a time. Which was a good way to kinda spoil the luxurious mood I'd been trying to create. Oh, well.
It took me awhile to get going in the morning- I was trying to decide what to do and I mainly had it narrowed down to either Cheung Chau island or seeing the Big Buddha on Lantau Island. I eventually settled on the former.

As I was riding on the Star Ferry to Central, I felt really weak even though I'd eaten some cereal in the hotel. I decided to take a diversion to a mall I'd seen nearby to get something to eat. I really wanted a "Mr. Donut", but that chain seems to be isolated to Japan. At any rate, I found a "Pacific Coffee Company" and had a bacon/cheese croissant, orange juice... and, yes, a chocolate donut! :) I felt much better, and walked around the mall a little bit- but this was another really high end mall so not so much buying.

Cheung Chau (viewed here from the ferry as we pulled into port) is a small island with no cars on it. There are tons of boats, however, and I think they do a lot of fishing. I noticed right away that the streets were quite a contrast to the sleek Versace mall I'd just been in. Lonely Planet once again had a walking tour which I did- this one was 4.5km, not counting the walk back to the ferry. Lots of hills again- I'm really having a great workout.

First stop was Pak Tai Temple, which is situated just behind a basketball court. This temple was gorgeous- the colors were beautiful and I'm not sure how well it can be conveyed via photos; I'm sure it was lovelier in person. But here's some photos anyway: (ignore the semi-lame captions...)
Some of the streets in the center of town looked more like alleyways. On one of these streets, I saw a young boy playing with his kitten and hoped he wouldn't think I was a stupid westerner when I had to take a photo of the little darling. I smiled at him; I think he was amused.

Along the way, there were many interesting sites such as this random shrine. I also passed a beach- where people were not letting the overcast weather bother them one bit. After enjoying the view, I soon came to the Kwan Kung Pavilion and wondered how people from a certain figure skating board might react to its name. ;) (detail of the Pavilion)

From this photo, you can see the beauty of the mountains and sea juxtaposed against the crowded and poor looking homes in the foreground. After this point, the walk was mainly along an isolated path on high ground with very few people around- bliss! (it would have been heaven had it not been dripping rain and had I not been feeling the insane humidity) This is the kind of thing I really like.

At one point, I saw a cat. But I was mainly enjoying the solitude and soaking in the views. Cheung Chau Cemetary was along the route, and I think the overcast weather made my photos turn out even more dramatic (photo 1, photo 2)

Toward the end of the tour, there was a small cave, Cheung Po Tsai. This is where I actually felt brave! LOL You see, I'm kinda claustrophobic and you had to really bend and twist while climbing down rocks to get into the cave... then climb down a few rungs of a ladder... walk a bit in the pitch dark (which the guidebook kinda didn't mention)... twist sideways, climb up a few rungs of another ladder... and climb up some more rocks to escape! Meanwhile, there is never 100% steady footing because it's all rocks. Even describing it does not fully convey the experience. But somehow I did it! I was lucky because the people in front of me had flashlights and also spoke English- they were very mindful of helping me. Fortunately, my skating held me in good stead as I am not sure how a less athletic person would have managed- and tall/wide people can forget about it. I took a photo of the people in front of me starting to go in, and one of the area from which we eventually emerged.

After that slightly hair raising experience, I enjoyed the views from the area of the cave- view 1, view 2.

Final stop on the walking tour was San Wan Tin Hau Temple. (detail photo 1, detail photo 2) This was a smaller and less important temple than the one I'd seen earlier.

I decided to walk back along the shore- which was not as deserted as the path earlier, but which was still pleasant. (lots of people on bicycles) At one point, I saw an interesting looking boat on the side of the road. At another, a butterfly mural. Tons of boats in the harbor, of course. Fish were hanging from a bicycle as I neared town. And at one stall, it looked like you could choose your upcoming meal from among many tanks of fish. Finally, I was back in town by the port. (note the Golden Arches in the background LOL)

I splurged for Deluxe Service on the ferry which meant I was on the highest deck, plus it was blasting A/C which I very much appreciated after all the walking and climbing I'd done. It also meant that there were video screens; unfortunately, for 50 minutes, they looped through the same video of Lantau sites (I saw enough of the Big Buddha that I didn't feel I missed anything by skipping it...) and an antismoking video that was less and less amusing by the 20th time I saw it. (caption reads "I also know my family will be suffered")

It was exciting to see the Hong Kong skyline start to emerge and then become visible in full force. After trying to take a photo of myself with the skyline in the background, a woman came over and offered to take one for me- which turned out better although still no masterpiece.

I walked around Central a bit- I noticed tons of crowds- I mean, people lining the streets camped out and amusing themselves by eating or playing cards. I noticed that there was a free concert on Charter St, but many of the people weren't even in listening range of that, let alone viewing range. So I'm not sure what was up with that. I took a bit of a voidy photo of Two International Finance Center which is the tallest building in HK.

Took the Star Ferry back to Kowloon one last time and enjoyed the sunset. (another view of the sunset)

Ate dinner at the Spaghetti House near me and came back to my room in time to take a shower before watching the Symphony of Lights one final time. I still don't think I can do justice to this in either words or photos- you have to see the lights moving, synchronized to music, to really appreciate this 15 minute spectacle.
I don't feel like I've done nearly everything in Hong Kong, but I think I got a good sampling of a variety of experiences. The one thing I really missed out on is eating authentic Chinese food, but between the fact that I still loathe eating out alone and the fact that I am a very picky eater and the fact that I am easily intimidated by making people speak English when it's not their primary language... well, I'm lucky that I eat anything in foreign countries. ;) That's always been one of my problems when traveling abroad- finding places I feel comfortable eating. My next hotel has a buffet breakfast so at least I will get a good start to each day.

Next hotel also has free internet. Yay!
Got up way too early and took a cab to the airport since I had extra HK dollars. In order to avoid feeling faint again, I grabbed some semblance of breakfast after going through security (which was a breeze that early) Still had money left, so I am now the proud owner of a "Hello Kitty" set of fork, spoon, and chopsticks! Whee! They actually had a choice of 3 designs. Also got a watch using my credit card... just because it was cute and I currently only have 1 watch. :)

I had an amazing view of HK from my airplane, though I was a little slow in thinking to get out the camera. I flew Cathay Pacific. It was a 2 hr flight. They gave us a meal and complimentary headphones for the personal seat back videos. I was impressed. Even though I didn't eat my breakfast (they told me the choice was an omelette without mentioning it was doused in mushrooms) and didn't notice the headphones til the flight was over (I was sleeping so they put them on the empty seat next to me).

First impression of Bangkok: the airport is quite voidy looking.

2nd impression of Bangkok: there were "Long Live the King" signs on the outside of the gangways to the terminal. I guess I'm a total cynic but it took me quite awhile to realize they were serious. It just seemed like some joke thing a radio station in the states would do- and, I mean, can you even imagine "Long Live the President" posters decorating the US?

3rd impression of Bangkok: I got in the slowest. and. longest. passport. control. line. ever. Or so it seemed. And they could have upped the A/C...

Anyway, I splurged on the hotel here- although it's expensive for Bangkok, it's still not bad at all by US standards since I got a terrific deal. As part of my room rate, I was driven to the hotel in a Mercedes. I alternated between feeling so decadent and feeling so weird that the driver would ask me things like "Madame, may I call ahead to the hotel?". (what would he have done if I'd said no?) During the drive, I tried to take everything in- there were mostly boring concrete buildings, but every now and then something gold and colorful would stick out and catch my attention.

Then I was in awe and intimidated by my hotel room at the Peninsula Hotel. I've stayed in really nice hotels before, but this is just... wow.
  • They gave me a welcome jasmine garland at check in, and had nice flowers on the desk
  • Walking in to my room- you go through a little corridor with the bathroom to the left and a foyer to the right; another doorway leads to the bedroom area, as well as a sitting area and a desk
  • Bedside controls for everything you can think of (totally voidy to push a button and see the outer curtains open followed by the inner curtains opening)
  • The bathroom is also amazing- hello, TV in the bathtub area (naturally, there are controls on the wall to change the volume and the station)
  • Complimentary fruits- things like lychee, not your everyday apples and oranges
  • I'm on the 28th floor, so there are some great views of downtown Bangkok. (view 1, view 2, view 3, view 4- which may or may not include the grand palace, view of the pool below) Yes, water view rooms were a theme of this trip. :)

I kept discovering things in the room- there's a DVD player, a bunch of plugs with dual voltage so I can plug my stuff in here wihout any adapter, all sorts of things.

I had a bit of a meltdown over the afternoon. Was feeling a little intimidated by the country-- I think Hong Kong reminded me a lot of Japan, so I immediately felt pretty comfortable there. I had some chocolate and laid down a bit, and seemed to be a little more stable.

The disadvantage to being picked up at the airport is that I didn't have the leisure to walk around and do things like use the ATM. So I had no Thai currency. Eventually I got the courage to venture out of my room and ask about an ATM; I was directed to one nearby- that one gave me a connection error but I spotted one across the street and was bold enough to actually go there instead of crawling back into my hotel room. I also spotted this building across the street- maybe a temple, although not a famous one.

On the way out of the hotel, I also saw some interesting things on the path between the hotel and the street including an altar off to the side (altar detail). While they had "Long Live the King" signs at the airport which I didn't photograph, I did capture the "Long Live the Queen" sign in front of my hotel.

I felt better having some local currency, so I got brave enough to take a free shuttle boat from the hotel pier to the Sky Train. I even figured out how to use the train. This was not quite obvious- I went to the cashier at the booth and gave him some money... and he gave me back change. It took a second for me to realize I needed to put coins in the machine and that he couldn't actually give me a ticket. Sky Train was pretty cool- they have video monitors and at one point they were playing voidy video promos for the musical Cats which is coming here this fall.

I went to an area that had 4 malls within a few blocks- you'd go through one mall, walk across a path, and then into another mall. They ranged from uber high end to one that seemed so cheap that I wouldn't want to bother with it.

I was starving so the first order of business was to get something to eat. The Fettuccine was delish, but I was all about the brownie I had for dessert- which was decorated quite prettily with chocolate syrup poured in the shape of a flower.

While walking outside, I discovered that they have Mr Donut in Thailand! Yay! I'd mentioned having a yearning for one in Hong Kong; it was actually somewhat of a joke to myself during my previous trip to Japan that every time I was hungry, I'd see a Mr Donut and think "Mr Donut is my friend!" LOL (I do have a trip report online for that one)

I stopped at 7-11 to get some snacks and sodas and then took the Sky Train to the pier to catch the boat across to my hotel. (photo of a boat at night with one of the hotel eating areas in the foreground) I admired the night view from my room, although it doesn't compare to the HK skyline. And I was amazed that someone had come in my room, opened the TV area, pulled out the TV channel listing from the bedside controls and placed slippers on the floor by my bed and a fresh bottle of water on the night table- talk about getting the room ready for me!

Then it was time to indulge in a pink bubble bath (courtesy of one of the Lush bars I got in HK) in the swanky bathtub... while watching a canceled US sitcom called "Crumbs".
It felt good to get a good night's sleep for once. After lazing around the room for a bit, I had a hearty breakfast at the hotel buffet- pancakes, waffles, omelette, smoked salmon, ham, cheese, bacon... yummm! Strolled around the pool for a bit afterwards.

Then I set off for some sightseeing. I took the adventurous route- shuttle boat from my hotel across the river, then a public ferry boat that made about 8 stops before the one I wanted. At each stop, one of the people on the boat would give a few loud whistles as an alert. Umm, I can still hear the whistles and that's not exactly a good thing.

Heading for the Grand Palace, I was warned that people would approach saying that it is closed in an effort to take tourists to jewelry shops so they'd get a kickback. I didn't hear anyone saying any such thing... and that means I wuzrobbed! :P Maybe that had something to do with my answering "No" when someone asked me where I was going... ;)

The Grand Palace is easily one of the most amazing sites I've seen in person- remember, I like colorful things, shiny things, and flowery things. I took tons of photos, and rather than link to each one separately, I am going to be lazy and just link to a directory with the ones I've uploaded.

I spent a good deal of time wandering around, as well as going inside a few buildings that did not allow photography but which had some amazing things. At one point, I sat down and drank a bottled water- y'all are lucky you don't have to deal with the 80% humidity! :P As I started to feel more and more sticky, I definitely wanted to go back to the hotel pool later.

Tried to follow a bit of a walking tour from my travel guide and saw the City Pillar Lak Meaung. Then someone told me I was going in the wrong direction for where I wanted to be- I am sure I could have gotten there by going the way I was going and walking around, but whatever, I didn't want to argue with the guy in case he was going to want to drive me to some jewelry shop so I just turned around and went the way he said.

This was Wat Pho, the temple of the reclining buddha. I almost didn't get to see it because the ticket guy wouldn't sell me a ticket because I didn't have small enough change. But eventually, I understood that he was telling me to go to the shop for change, which they gave me. (and in thanks, I left a small donation in their donation bucket... though, in retrospect, it was probably too small a donation) The reclining buddha was pretty spectacular and the buildings and artwork were also lovely. And I was feeling increasingly icky and hot.

I headed to a pier to take a quick ferry across the river to Wat Arun, which I'd passed on my earlier ferry ride down the river.

More great architecture. (another view of a building) and other details. Plus, you could climb up and have some really nice views. There were 3 levels- the stairs for the last 2 were increasingly steep; I looked up the last set of stairs and was wondering if I should do it or not- I am not one for heights... but I figured I'd never have a chance again so I braved it and was treated to quite a lovely view which included the sites I'd seen across the river. Walking down those steep steps on my little legs was as much an adventure as walking up, but I made it. And man, my thighs have been getting a killer workout!

At this point, I was feeling so hot and sticky that I decided to chuck the rest of the walking tour (since I'd seen the main sights) and head back to the hotel and its pool.

On the way to the shuttle ferry across the river, I saw some cats that were a little mangy looking and underfed... but they were cats and thus worthy of a photo. I can't remember which direction it was... but on one of the ferries across, while sitting and waiting for the boat to leave, one of the crew members was sitting and clipping his toe nails. Yuk!

Transferred to one of the whistle blowing ferries down the river, got off at the stop where I'd embarked and walked around a little to get to my hotel's private pier (I didn't know if they would regularly stop at the pier where they'd let me off) Wondered if I'd get lost but I didn't. Saw a little shrine at the pier while waiting briefly for a boat to come over.

Once I got to my room, I ordered room service then collapsed for a nap. I woke up just before sunset, and admired the view from my room.

Then I conquered the greatest fear so far on this trip: wearing a bikini out in public. LOL It was nice going to the pool after sunset because I didn't have to worry about sunburn. It was also nice because I was about the only one there. You could see the river from the pool, and all the boats passing by. Quite the decadent feel. I can't remember the last time I'd been swimming- but it's been ages (even though the apt pool is practically in my backyard) After enjoying some time in the pool, I retired to a cabana to read some of my book. Eventually, a mother and her 2 sons came down and I no longer had the pool to myself and I figured it was time to go in, anyway. But I intend to return tomorrow night.

Ate a light dinner of udon in the hotel lobby restaurant/bar from which I again had an excellent view of the river. There was also some live music and singing- nothing too funky or anything but it was still nice. Had a really delicious non-alcoholic citrus punch drink. :)

And now I am enjoying the night view from my room. I have been sitting at the opposite side of the desk as intended but it would be a crime to sit with my back to the such a great view.
I'd booked a group tour to Ayutthaya for today so I actually had to set my alarm and get up early. I headed down to the buffet breakfast again- how on earth had I missed the chocolate chip muffins yesterday?!?! Anyway, I will look for them tomorrow... I am craving them right now.

I took a shuttle boat from my hotel across the river (my hotel is on the opposite side from most hotels and sites; but it's a quick shuttle across so it's no problem) and read my book while sitting on the pier and waiting to be picked up. I hadn't realized they were going to pick me up by van, not by boat, but it all worked out.

We took a bus to Ayutthaya, a historic city and former capital a few hrs away. I felt terribly rude closing my eyes and falling asleep while the tour guide was talking, but I couldn't help myself.

First stop was the royal summer palace. This was one of the places with a dress code, although the driver said longer shorts would be ok. I was wearing shorts because I didn't have any clean capris or pants, other than the pair of jeans I will wear home. Somehow my shorts were just a tad too short so I had to wear a bright yellow wrap around skirt that they had onhand for such situations (100 baht refundable deposit). I was so hopeless, I couldn't even figure out how to get it on without the help of a lady there. I tried to work the look as best as I could, but I have a feeling I looked ridiculous. ;) The thing was hot and itchy, and made walking difficult- so the moral of this story is: don't wear shorts when doing any serious sightseeing in Thailand.

Anyway. The summer palace featured architecture in the styles of Chinese, European and of course Thai. There was a tower that could be climbed for good views. There were garden sculptures that were interesting to see. It was a lovely and photogenic place to walk around. (additional photo 1, additional photo 2) But man, was it hot! Yesterday I'd wondered how hot it would feel with the sun out; today I found out. Fortunately they gave us each a moist towlette to refresh ourselves when we got back onto the bus.

Second stop was Wat Maha That, which was the ruins of an older temple. One of the most famous sites here is a Buddha's head that has gotten entangled into tree branches (detail).; it somehow got wedged there and has remained. Amongst the ruins was a seated Buddha. Random void: there was a rainbow in the sky.

Oh, and it was still hot. Just in case y'all were wondering. LOL

3rd stop was Wat Na Phra Mane which contains a building with an impressive golden buddha in royal attire and another with a green stone buddha that is over 1000 years old. There was also another building that was pretty, but its interior was not open to the public.

Oh, how I wanted to jump into my hotel pool... it's not even the heat as much as the humidity. I will never complain about the heat in the US again. at least not for the next week

Final stop in Ayutthaya was Wat Lokayasutharam, which has one of the largest reclining buddhas. (face of the buddha) It is wrapped in a sheet to protect it from the elements.

While on the bus today, I started to miss skating. As much for the cool of the ice rink as for the actual skating itself.

Then it was a short drive to the pier to board our air conditioned boat for a 3.5 hr cruise back to Bangkok. The cruise started with a lunch buffet of Thai food... of which I had a lot of rice, and some pork and chicken that were spicier than I generally eat, but otherwise ok. I was seated with 2 other couples- one was an older couple from Brazil and the other was a young couple from Bulgaria. I started to get Denkova/Staviski voids for a moment until I remembered about the whole hit and run thing...

It was pouring rain while we ate, but eventually it cleared up and I was able to go outside to take some photos (coming inside every now and then to bask in the lovely A/C... and watching the loop of "America's Funniest Home Videos" that they were broadcasting on the video screens- which didn't exactly make me feel all warm and fuzzy about being from the US. I was interested in taking some of the random sites we passed, not necessarily the "pretty" things, though we did pass an awful lot of temples as well.
Once back at the pier, we were divided into various vans to take us back. Traffic in Bangkok is insane- seemed even worse than NYC. It would have probably been quicker to have walked to my hotel's pier. But I tried to use it as an opportunity to take in some more sights of Bangkok- at one point, we were in an area with lots of Japanese writing in addition to Thai. (which reminds me that there were a bunch of Japanese tour groups that I saw today)

Finally got back to my hotel's pier and quickly caught a shuttle boat back to my hotel. Boat is definitely the way to travel in Bangkok if you can manage it. (Sky Train is also fine)

Then it was time to swim! :) I wore my other bikini today... and even wore it outside while it was still light out. The sun was setting while I was down at the pool- I wish I'd had my camera because it was really a lovely sight. It's still amazing being able to swim while seeing all the buildings and boats on the river in the background. I swam, read a little, swam some more, got served some cold water, and then finally decided I'd had enough.

Ordered room service dinner- didn't much feel like going out anywhere.
I wuzrobbed of Dim Sum cause I only saw they had it at one of the breakfast buffet stations after I already filled up on choc chip bread (no choc chip muffins today)
Last day in Bangkok :(

I took the hotel shuttle boat to the Sky Train to visit Jim Thompson's house. I followed other Westerners from the train station; I am good at taking everything in and analyzing situations and I was able to see 2 people asking for directions. It was advantageous to follow them as I am not sure I would have gone in that direction otherwise; though I'm sure I would have found it eventually.

Jim Thompson is an American who was a pioneer in creating an international silk business in Thailand; he disappeared at age 61 in Malaysia but his house (actually several buildings) remains. It's a Thai style house with some Western touches (he was an architect) and it houses a great collection of interesting art and furniture. (more art) There is also a lovely garden outside that Mr. Thompson apparently used to refer to as his "jungle". A guide takes small groups through to explain things in your choice of English, French, Thai or Japanese; our guide was really short and so adorable- always a big smile- that you would almost want to take her home with you. You couldn't take pictures of most of the collection, but it was very interesting to see.

Afterwards, I went into the store and bought myself some souvenirs - that's a shirt, a cell phone case, a glasses case, and a little silk elephant. I loved the bright colors and could have bought out the whole store, except I really didn't have much use for anything else. ;)

Like most buildings I've seen, the house had a shrine- actually I think it had 2. I will miss seeing random gorgeous shrines and temples everywhere. (see also the detail of the shrine linked above)

The house was near the shopping district so I went back into Siam Center and bought some things for the nieces. My nieces are very well taken care of in the souvenir dept. :) I could probably have gotten things cheaper on the streets but it really annoys me when salespeople are aggressive- I hate it in the US and it's even worse here because I end up feeling badly when they pay a lot of attention to me and I don't buy anything. (I also hate it when they follow me around the store- is that supposed to get me to want to buy things? Because it makes me want to run in the opposite direction. )

Another random shrine- this one outside of one of the shopping centers.

In this area there are a lot of elevated walkways, which are very convenient and more pleasant than walking on the street. This photo was taken underneath the Sky Train tracks and shows the elevated walkways as well as the traffic below. Once again, note the pink taxis. I've also seen some purple ones, but oddly enough, it's the pink ones that I like most.

I think someone told me that there was more shopping in Hong Kong than Bangkok- clearly they missed the road I was walking on... after passing the 4 shopping centers I'd seen on Monday, I only had to walk a little further to find Central World, which may be my favorite. You know an area is overflowing with shopping when I see malls that I don't even bother to visit because it's just too much for me. ;) But I did visit Central World, which has one of the spiffier "Long Live The King" banners outside it and which is pretty nifty looking inside too. This was another mid-range mall- not junk and not Armani/Prada. It had things like "Toys R Us" and a restaurant named "Miss Saigon"

I was starting to get thirsty and a little hungry. I saw a Dunkin Donuts and hoped that there might be a Mr. Donut somewhere in there. Well, just 2 doors down, there it was! Yay, Mr. Donut is still my friend! :) Smiling inside, I had a chocolate donut and fruit punch. I was tempted to try one of the chocolate peanut donuts but I didn't.

Nearby, a Ronald McDonald statue greeted visitors with a traditional Thai greeting position. Who says McDonald's isn't a cultural experience? ;)

Back outside walking on elevated paths, I noticed something really neat near a shrine by a mall that I was too uninterested to visit. There was traditional music playing and dancers dancing in the background (see detail photo) I lingered a bit to absorb the atmosphere.

I walked for awhile, eventually getting to a less swanky area where the malls were lower class and where there was stall after stall of people selling things- many of which were no doubt counterfeit- on the street. Didn't really feel 100% safe whipping out my camera there. I was disappointed that the area wasn't seedy enough to have anything worthy of photos but it's probably for the best that I didn't end up in one of those kinds of areas. Eventually, I took the Sky Train to the other Sky Train line back to the hotel shuttle boat.

After reviving myself in the sweet A/C of my room for a bit, I went out again because there was still another present I needed to get. I took a shuttle boat to the River City shopping complex which features traditional Thai shopping. (interior view) This translated to some really cheap looking souvenir stores as well as some really expensive antiques and arts stores as well as several stores selling silk where I think they would custom make clothes for you. I resisted the urge to buy any 5 foot Buddhas.

Took some photos on the shuttle boat both ways, knowing that I was reaching the end of my photo taking opportunities and not wanting anything to get away. For similar reasons, I walked around the pool area once again.

Admiring the twilight from my room, I realized that I was very hungry. I ordered room service and decided against going back to the pool and took another bubble bath instead; this time I was able to watch a bit of "The Office" and most of "Scrubs" while I bathed. (I've never seen either of these 2 shows at home...) Then I did some packing.
Got up very early Bangkok time, said goodbye to my room, and took a cab to the airport. Yes, it was a pink cab. It didn't use a meter and I think that made it more expensive but that ultimately did not really matter.

Airport at Bangkok is weird in that once you get past security there is absolutely no food or souvenir shopping- it's all between passport control and security. This is a brand new airport and I really didn't like that arrangement; I like to get past security as soon as possible and then spend whatever time is left browsing/shopping/eating. By the time I realized this, I was too tired to go back- so as a result, I was hungry and had extra Thai bhats that went unused. :P However, at least I'd managed to find a small Thai silk jewelry box beforehand- I try to collect small boxes from each country I visit- though shamefully I forgot to look for them in Hong Kong and Macao. Not only do they make nice display items, but I also use them for storing excess currency from various countries- makes it easy to find what I need the next time I take a trip (for example, I had some Japanese Yen that I was able to take out of my Japanese box to use at airports this trip)

I did manage to photograph the "Long Live the King" signs I'd seen on my way in- both a view of my own plane as well as the view from my plane of another one.

I am always getting sick during/after vacations and I wouldn't be surprised if this was no exception since I spent 6 hrs between Bangkok and Tokyo seated next to a Japanese women who was coughing and sniffing (<- nails on chalkboard!) and generally looking miserable. At one point, she was holding the barf bag and I got nervous but fortunately that was all she did with it.

At Tokyo, I didn't have a lot of spare time for my connection, but I managed to get a watch I'd eyed on my way in... almost got one of these really cute "Hello Kitty" lipglosses that were part of a Shiseido collection but they felt kinda slimy so I just got some water and M&M's for the plane. I also noticed the Mao/Mai Asada poster I'd seen earlier which was promoting Canada/ Japan tourism exchange. I also took a random photo of the gate... just because I already had the camera out. ;) During takeoff, there was a nifty looking sunset

Did a lot of reading en route to Dallas (Four Reigns, which is a novel by a Thai author) as well as some sleeping.

Some drama at the Dallas airport... I had some difficulties getting my bag off the luggage carousel because it was wedged between some other bags and I somehow ended up banging my knee. Then I bent down for something (possibly to get out my landing card for customs) and was whacked in the head by a bag that was sticking off the carousel- that didn't hurt as much but it sure made me feel stupid.

Even though I hadn't had an appetite toward the end of my flight into the US, I couldn't resist stopping at the Ben and Jerry's at Dallas airport because they had Chocolate Therapy ice cream, which I haven't seen since I was in London last year.

From Dallas to PHL, I was seated in front of 2 chatterboxes who couldn't stop talking the entire ride. Still managed to nap a bit and read a bit.

All 3 of my planes got in early- which means that all 7 planes total were either on time or early. That's some kind of record- I figured things were going way too smoothly and that I was destined to lose my luggage or something, but it all got there. (and so far, it doesn't look like anything was stolen out of it like was the case on a previous trip from Japan so yay!)
Overall, this is one of the most successful trips I've taken. I can't believe how smoothly things worked out logistically- and the destinations themselves were all worthwhile.

Hong Kong Disneyland was the perfect start to ease me into the trip. Despite being very small, it was definitely worth visiting for a Disney fan such as myself.

Hong Kong itself is truly an amazing and unique city with a lot to offer. It's very modern, but somehow manages to feel more interesting than your average generic urban city. It certainly doesn't hurt that it's located on a beautiful landscape of hills and water. People say that the Hong Kong skyline is the best in the world, and it would be hard to argue with that.

I wasn't sure what to expect of Bangkok but it was a really amazing city. I already miss the scent of incense that can be smelled from the ubiquitous shrines. The city itself is not as interesting as Hong Kong, but there seems to be more historic sites to be seen. Also, Thai temples are amazingly gorgeous.