Hong Kong + 21st Birthday=Best Port Ever. I knew from looking off the boat that I would love this place. It reminded me slightly of New York, you could see lights, tall buildings and lots of people EVERYWHERE! The best part was it was even more beautiful at night!
Day 1: The day before my birthdayI felt like I had to take full advantage of being in Hong Kong so I took two days to celebrate my birthday. We got off the ship and headed directly to Starbucks, I believe I have said this before but I appreciate good coffee so much more now after being deprived for so long! We wandered the city with our Starbucks and I felt at home. This isnt a place where people stop and talk, it is a bustling city and people walk with a mission. I never considered myself someone that enjoys being surrounded by a million people you dont know but it was comforting in the sense that you can walk around inconspicuously, whereas in other countries attention was always on us. We headed to the market and my amazing shopper instincts quickly came out from hiding, fake everything, amazing fake everything was everywhere. It was all so cheap and if you couldnt find the color you wanted at one place you could walk two feet to discover 11 different colors you hadnt seen before. It was a nice place to buy presents for friends without spending too much. We headed to McDonalds for lunch, always a classy place to dine, and it was packed!! We think Americans like McDonalds, well I can tell you that Asians like it much more. All of the ones we passed were twice the size as any in the US and they were all packed to the brim. After lunch we continued our shopping day and spent about 5 hours there and left with bags full of goodies. By this time in the day we were all exhausted from walking around in the crowds so we headed back to nap and get ready for my birthday dinner. The night kind of got controversial when we started out at a restaurant that thought they could get away with charging us 22 dollars a person before we had even started eating and then try to charge about 60 dollars for a drink. Good did come from it when we found Ruth Chris about a block away and got our steak fill for the last 3 months. The owner of the restaurant also owns the one in New York and happened to be in town so he sent us over free drinks! It was a great start to my almost birthday. Since I was going to be turning 21 at midnight I felt it was time I tried crab cakes, which I loved! Its funny, I have always turned my nose up at seafood but two different ports in a row I have tried it and loved it! From dinner we headed to the street where all the bars were and before we got there we had no idea that rugby 7s were going on and happening in Hong Kong. Rugby 7s is just like the super bowl but for rugby. When this occurs they have something just like Mardi Gras for the states but in Hong Kong. Everyone was dressed up in Halloween costumes and one road was blocked off for everyone to be out in. I was in heaven, I felt like this was occurring just so everyone could celebrate my birth!! I turned 21 at midnight and I didnt feel a second older but I really truly celebrated the best birthday yet. I was surrounded by all these people I had met not even 4 months ago and couldnt possibly have felt more loved surrounded me. The night ended around 8 AM for us even though people were still out there partying hard.
Day 2: Rough start to an amazing day. We decided to sleep in or should I say at least get two hours of sleep before we headed out for the day. It was a rainy day and our last day in Hong Kong, and of course my day of birth! Everyone had left for their Beijing trips so Jill and I decided to have a relaxing day. We went to the mall and to one of my favorite stores H&M to stock up with warm clothes for the rather cold temperatures we were dealing with. We sat down at a fancy lunch at Pizza Hut, I kid you not it was fancy. People actually wait to be sat at the Pizza Hut in Hong Kong. It sounds like such an American day but it felt amazing to not having to decipher menus or wonder if you were going to enjoy the food. We headed back to the ship to pack for our night in the hotel before we left for Beijing the next day and I got to spend a couple of hours on skype with my family as another great part of my day. We were so late getting to the street where the festival was and had yet to get a hotel that we decided to splurge on a nice hotel. We ended up being on the top floor of this amazing hotel and had a view of the entire city. They even had real Doritos in the mini fridge, which ended up being an amazing breakfast. We spend the night out at the street festival again, just as crazy as the night before but because the rugby tournament was over all the rugby players were out there too. We met a couple of guys off the Australian rugby team and we shared stories of home. They were 21 years old and traveling the world for rugby, our lives slightly resembled each others and we were able to tell funny stories of each country.
Day 3: We woke up early to head to the airport so we could head off to Beijing. My flight wasnt until 5:30 PM so a couple of us sat around at the airport all day and the amount of pictures that Chinese people were taking of us were hilarious. They would watch everything we did and sometimes videotape it. We got into Beijing around 9:30 and headed out a club called Mix. It was wayyyyy to crowded for my liking, so I headed home early.
Day 4: China guide started this day, we got picked up by our tour guide around 10 AM. His name was Chen Chen so we called him Double Chen. We started out at the Tiemen Square (unsure of the spelling), it was fun but once again our tour guide didnt share a lot of history about each place. We then headed to the Forbidden City. It was huge; it went on for miles and miles! It kind of upset me to hear that everything had been repainted in 2007 and not all of it resembled the original emperors quarters, but it did remind me slightly of Mulan, so it made up for it. It was crazy to see what the emperor had for himself, such as a changing room that was a building made just for the purpose of him changing his clothes, or possibly the reading room, another large building for the purpose of reading. Apparently he was spending all the governments money on himself and his city instead of on the people. But who doesnt need a reading room, it makes sense to me! We went to a conventional Chinese lunch and it was amazing, it was a 9 course meal and I felt like it was dish after dish of amazingness. American Chinese food is very different from normal Chinese food. Almost all of the dishes were very spicy! We spent the rest of the day at a market that once again was selling all the fake bags and shoes. After shopping we had a 3-hour bus ride to the Great Wall and had dinner right next to it before we spent the night. The night started out so much fun, it took about a 30-minute hike to get to the area on the wall that we were to sleep. The stairs were so steep and very un-sturdy, which leads me to the next part of the night that turned awful. About a hour into us being on the wall, after many of us had started drinking we heard someone yelling. Two girls from another group had fallen down the stairs, and one was unconscious. It was a situation in which none of the leaders were around and us, the students, had to take over the situation. Only a couple of us that were close enough had any medical training so we were forced to find where she was bleeding, try and stop the bleeding, call medical help, and monitor her until the guys of the group carried her down all the stairs. It was a situation in which none of us should have been put in but it was incredible how everyone came together to help her. A guy that wasnt even apart of semester at sea who was there visiting his brother from the trip, tore a door off the wall in order to put her on it. It was something that made you feel proud to be a part of. The rest of the night was kind of ruined because no one knew if she was going to be okay and we all had our minds stuck on her.
Day 5: Woke up even colder than when we went to bed! It was insane how cold it got at night! I wore two pairs of pants, my shoes, 2 long sleeve shirts, a sweatshirt, a jacket, gloves, and a hat and I was still freezing!! We were woken up around 6 AM to start our 6 mile hike along the great wall. This part was my favorite of the entire trip! It took us about two hours to hike up and down the wall. It was so steep in some parts that I couldnt decide if I liked going up or down better, there were areas that you didnt have any place to put your foot so you had to walk very slow! I had no idea that I enjoyed hiking until this day, Im not sure if it was the view we had the entire time or just the rush of doing it that I enjoyed more. The rest of the day was spent at another market before we headed on the sleeper train back to the ship. I also enjoyed the sleeper train! It was so nice and it was fun being with everyone from your group for another night in a place we werent used to!
Day 6: Instead of going back to Hong Kong we had to meet the ship in Shanghai! It was very weird to be joining the ship in a city you have yet to be! Shanghai is very different from Hong Kong it wasnt as large of a city and it wasnt as busy. We got back, took a quick nap and then walked around the city. We went to a market and spent the rest of the time walking around. They had a little amusement park right next to the port area so we thought it would be fun to go on a ride. Im unsure of what it was about us being there but we caused a scene and the entire park came to watch us go on the ride. They loved watching us scream and laugh the entire time. We got off the ride and multiple people came up to us asking for pictures! I have never felt more like a celebrity! We went out that night to some nice bars that were far to expensive for our liking but it was fun to see their night life!
Day 7: Last day in Shanghai! Our on-board time got moved two hours forward so we didnt have much time to do anything! We spent the day at a local bar where everyone from the ship was and had a fun time recapping the entire China trip!
Hong Kong was by far my favorite port so far, I enjoyed it more than South Africa because it felt more different than home! I really hope I get to go back someday and be able to enjoy more time there!