Sunday, April 29, 2012

Animals In India

We saw a ton of animals in India. At first, we had to get used to the cows roaming the city streets. Then the goats. Then the horses. Then the camels. Then the elephants. Then the monkeys. It really felt like we had to break into this way of life that is so different from anything we've experienced before, where all walks of life coexist in their own harmonious way.

A cow roaming through the narrow streets of Jaisalmer fort.
Either the herds are accustomed to the Indian highway traffic, or they are led by experienced herders because large groups of animals parade down the side of the street, rarely losing formation. Of course there are also the stray cows, who wander slowly to the other side of the street, or sometimes just hang out in the middle of the road, completely unfazed by the crazy traffic and noise.

Look at those horns!
Animals eat a lot of trash. Many die because they've eaten too much plastic.
Goats are more of an obstacle on the highways because they run across the street to follow their buddies, and sometimes they change direction at the last minute, running straight in front of your car. Our driver told us that if you accidentally hit one, you are considered responsible, and have to pay the owner for it.

A beautiful goat in the middle of a small village's peaceful street.
More goats. This time they're in the desert. From a distance, they look like children reaching for tree branches.
Of course there are stray dogs around every corner, but that has been a constant in all the places we've been.

Peacocks! I had no idea that peacocks were such an important symbol of India. We saw loose peacocks in a number of places, and representations of peacocks on the walls of palaces and hotels.

Hanging out on the wall of a fort.
Juxtaposition of elegance and ugliness.
3-D peacocks adorning a doorway in one of Jaipur's palaces.
A peacock-inspired doorway.
At first we were afraid of camels because we thought they spit at you when they get angry, but I looked it up and that's actually llamas.

Camel cart.
Footprints of mysterious tiny birds that circled our beds throughout the night while we were camping.
A terrible photo of suckling pigs.
Pigeons were everywhere. Sometimes we saw people feeding them with seeds, so I don't think they are looked down upon like they are in the US. I think some Indians might actually eat them.

Pigeons lining the roof of a palace we visited.
I have no idea what this sign is supposed to mean. It was posted outside a temple we visited.
I was excited to see a real-life snake charmer and his cobra.

Then we got to the areas with wild monkeys, who were very well-fed and pretty much kept to themselves. Sometimes I felt like I was in that part of The Wizard of Oz with the flying monkeys. As the sun set one night, we dined at a rooftop restaurant and watched monkeys noisily fly from one building to the next. We hoped they wouldn't make it to our roof.

At the monkey temple (Galwar Bagh) in Jaipur.
I told one to cover his eyes, one to cover his mouth and the last to cover his ears but they got distracted...
Beehives in the Jama Masjid mosque in Fatehpur Sikri.

Chipmunkin' around.
One of my favorite animals--the donkey! This photo brings a smile to my face.
A huge pelican we saw at a zoo in Agra.
 Here is a complete list of the animals we saw in India:
  • Dog
  • Cat
  • Bird (mostly pigeon)
  • Horse
  • Monkey
  • Snake (garden and cobra)
  • Goat
  • Elephant
  • Lizard/gecko
  • Cow
  • Peacock
  • Camel
  • Pig (with piglets)
  • Rat
  • Sheep
  • Donkey
  • Squirrel
  • Chipmunk
  • Buffalo
  • Pelican
  • Black buck
  • Chital
  • Deer
  • Fish
  • Chicken
... and a few insects too:
  • Beetle
  • Cockroach
  • Ant
  • Mosquito
  • Moth
  • Butterfly

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Introduction to "Incredible India"

India. Where do I begin? ...

I really don't even know where to begin. India is so different from all the other countries we've been to. It's been the most challenging country so far, as well. Pretty much anything involving money becomes a struggle at some point. My friend Jenny met up with me and Monica for a month while we travel through India and Nepal--it's been great to have another member of our group. We've become a team, sticking together against the face of our odds, against the people who try to cheat and scam and stare at us.

I don't want to paint an entirely negative picture, because there is a lot to love about this country, but being a white, female traveler here is difficult, at least in the northern part of the country, where we've been for the last two weeks.

Snake charmers outside one of the many forts we visited in Rajasthan.
Some things I love: Indian music, all types: classical, folk, Bollywood, pop, etc. I also love Hindi, the language--the cute and gentle "d" and "b" sounds specifically. I love how most Indians seem to be connected to all the animals around them. I'm actually going to devote an entire blog post to all of the animals we've seen in India, because there are so many!

Arrival: the Delhi airport.
The food is another thing I love. I was blown away by our first Indian meal. We ate at a place that our driver recommended--Andhra Pradesh Bhawan Canteen. If you ever make it to Delhi, eat here. You won't be disappointed. An all-you-can-eat meal costs less than $2 USD.

So flavorful!
Soon after arrival, we started to notice the eyes staring at us from all directions. Indian men must not think it's rude to stare, because they will just FEAST their eyes on you with no shame or covertness.

A glimpse of what it's like in India: ~90% men on the streets and outside of homes, in general. The ladies stay cooped up inside.
Before getting on a night train at the station near Agra, the three of us were literally surrounded by men facing and staring at us, mostly with their arms crossed in front of their chests, some of whom where taking cell phone photos of us.

More and more men started turning up and joining the circle around us until we were forced to completely cover ourselves (faces too!) with our scarves. It's a horrible feeling.

In addition to the Animal Planet "Feeding In the Wild" episode that was occurring, there were about one hundred rats per square foot on the train tracks, and one billion birds above the train tracks making awful, deafening bat-like squeaking sounds. Oh, also there were mosquitoes swarming around our bodies. At this point, I realized out loud, "this is hell."

This guy took a photo of me, so I thought it only fair to reciprocate.
Being foreigners, we were definitely a sight to behold for many Indians we encountered, even in a big city like Delhi.

This family asked to take a group shot with Jenny.
Many people we met commented on our appearances and resemblances.

I was called:
1. Shakira (Jenny was also called Shakira at one point, so it became less cool.)
2. An angel
3. My favorite: a fairy!

Jenny was also likened to a famous Indian actress, but I forget her name.

Mostly, all the men thought Monica was a beautiful Indian woman, and they all wanted to marry her.

In Delhi, we booked a two-week road trip through northern India because it seemed like the best and easiest option. Our route was Delhi--Mandawa--Bikaner--Kuhri--Jaisalmer--Jodhpur--Pushkar--Jaipur--Fatehpur Sikri--Agra--Varanasi. It turned out really great; I'm so glad we had the luxuries of a car and driver, and hotel rooms booked for us in advance. It made the already somewhat stressful experience of being in India so much better. (Internet is very difficult to find here so booking hotels in advance and doing research would have been very challenging while we were on the road.)

Our safe driver, Jai.
The roads in northern India are okay, but it's the obstacles that make driving strenuous: countless unmarked speed bumps, herds of cattle, sheep, goats, packs of dogs, camels, horses, "wide load" vehicles around blind curves, slow tractors, crazy drivers, and the intensity of the sun in your eyes. Much love to Jai for being an excellent driver. We forgive you for making us feel guilty in the end and asking for more money, because it seems like that is just the norm.

Transporting an enormous amount of hay.
One thing we had to reckon with was the litter everywhere. I tried to squint and pretend it was some sort of beautiful shimmery ground coating sometimes, but that only worked in the car when the trash was far away.

India is hot! I bet it was over 100 degrees most of the days we've been here.

This photo says it all: hot, uncomfortable and covered up! But still somehow enjoying ourselves...
Plus, it's very dry up here in the desert region so you need to drink ten times the amount of water you expect, and then some. The other day I drank three liters of water before noon and didn't pee once.

These are all for me.
One more thing I love is the many forms of transportation in India. In Delhi, my favorite were the white vintage Ambassador taxis. Sadly, I didn't get to ride in one.

Of course there are rickshaws, tuk-tuks and motorbikes, but what you might not realize is people use all sorts of animals regularly to carry things and people around--long and short distances--including horses, cows, camels and donkeys!

Camel startling Monica.
We didn't know what to expect with the hotels included in our package tour, but we were quite pleased with most of them. The shower water was generally cold, and the WiFi generally didn't work, but we were told that's why they call it "incredible India." When something actually does work, it's incredible!

Another fun fact: India takes things very seriously when it comes to entering the country or checking into a hotel. Below, notice the larger-than-life registration book, which is quite common at Indian hotels. Filling that thing out was more painful than the medical information forms new doctors require.

We're not trying to immigrate, I swear!
My favorite part of our trip was our camel safari and camping in the desert near Kuhri Village. Below is a photo of some local kids we met in the middle of our safari ... More on this in a later post.

Cows are considered a sacred animal for people of the Hindu faith, which is the dominant religion in India. No one would ever get angry with a cow for crossing the road at an inconvenient time, eating vegetables from their stand, shitting on their foot, etc.

I saw these around India sporadically. They use the money to buy food for the cows.
I've read that some people believe the cow acts as a surrogate mother by providing milk to human beings for its whole life, therefore they think the cow is truly the mother of the world.

Bummer. I was feelin' a double cheeseburger...
Indians never seem to get enough of their spices. Below is a photo of a snack I enjoyed--pretty spicy! It reminded me of being 10 years old again, and eating those "Hot Fries" I used to get from the vending machine at the YMCA. I wonder if those are a southern snack.

That brings me to Indian toilets. Don't expect to find any toilet paper, nor even a water sprayer hose like you find in most parts of Southeast Asia. Here, you find a spigot and a small bucket to clean yourself. (We always carry our own roll of toilet paper with us.)

Squat toilets are most common, but this was a new design (below): if you want, you can lift the toilet seat and stand on the ledge of the toilet rim to do your business. I imagine some people have had perilous accidents involving this toilet design.

India is not quite the peaceful place of yoga and meditation I had imagined, but we did get a chance to do a quick photo shoot at a palace...

Money is responsible for a lot of the hassles encountered when traveling through India. I could write a book on this, but it would be boring so I won't go much into it. Thinking about what we've been through actually starts to make my blood boil a little at this point in our trip, so I'm going to spare myself from thinking about it too deeply right now. Jenny does a wonderful job of capturing some of our experiences in her blog post.

"Being sold to" is a huge part of being a tourist, and we caved and let them have a go with us at a bunch of different shops: fabric, clothing, wood-block printing, rug weaving, and marble, to name a few. Experienced salesmen work in these shops. They offer you a cup of chai masala tea or Coke. They give you a demonstration of the process, and then they bring out the goods. Usually, if your driver took you to the shop, he will get a cut of whatever you end up spending at the store.

The caste system is still in effect, and it was quite apparent when we visited the Taj Mahal. To get in, we had to wait in a line (the foreigner, female line to be exact). Ahead of us was the Indian female line. Ahead of that group was the foreign male line, followed by the Indian lower-class male and then finally the Indian upper-class male. We were lowest on the totem pole.

Also of note: foreigners pay 750 rupees ($15 USD) for the entry ticket while Indians pay a mere 20 rupees (about 45 cents).

Foreigners even have separate entrances.
We spent our last four nights in India in the "holy" city of Varanasi, which had its ups and downs. The air was full of dust, exhaust fumes and cremation smoke. The ground was full of excrement, trash and throngs of flies. We struggled a lot negotiating rates with drivers and our hotel staff, and all three of us got sick. Despite these tribulations, I managed to have some great experiences, like our two rowboat rides on the Ganges, my sitar lesson, and meeting a friendly Indian boy who helped me buy a sitar and treated me to a Coke (slightly redeeming Indian men, in my eyes).

But I think we're all happy to say we're in Nepal now! We're in a little town called Lumbini just across the border, the town where Buddha was born.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Weird Shit in Asia

Across our travels throughout Southeast Asia we encountered many quirky things, from products, signs, merchandise and food items that would be regarded as weird or funny in our western world. Anne did a great overview of Singaporean signage that had us crack up with silly western jokes, and here I am, trying to delight you, our dear readers, with some Asian oddities collected along the way. Disclaimer: some of the photos are somewhat NSFW, so please don't scroll down if you're at work, have a big monitor and your boss might be looking over your shoulder. 

The Philippines: in a mall in Manila we found disposable panties with a poetic tag line: "We're just a heart beat away. One touch could make it happen. We can reach the other side if we hold on to the passion."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

One Week in Honk Kong

Getting the Hong Kong blog post going has been a real struggle. As our next destination was India, for the past week we've been completely swept off our feet, swamped, overwhelmed, exhausted by all the sensory overload that a first visit to India entails, that we crashed every night in our hotel room, with little to no time for computer activities. In addition to that, reliable Internet access in India has also been a scarce luxury.

So, Hong Kong... I will spare you the details on history, food, people, blah blah... as probably many of you have been there, have seen tons of movies that took place there or tons of documentaries/lifestyle/shopping TV shows. Hong Kong is accessible, a shopping mecca, a modern metropolis, an extremely livable city and thus gets a lot of coverage. I will resume my post to a brief description of what we did in Hong Kong in a week: we ate some Chinese food, we watched *hella* movies at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, we met up with friends, we got our portraits sketched by a street artist, we got our futures told by a fortune teller in a night market, we took some ferries, we visited some islands, we ate some street food and deserts and we rode a lot of public transportation. Now on to some visual representations of the above:

Above: an apartment building on Hong Kong island. From what I heard, each apartment is really tiny. I wonder how many people live in each of these buildings. I like to call Hong Kong a concrete jungle. Despite the intimidating name, Honk Kong is not intimidating at all. It's so logical, well-structured and safe to navigate, that it offers full independence and freedom of movement. Taxis are cheap and reliable, but you rarely need one, as most public transportation is fast, well-connected and runs almost round the clock. The subway is amazing. And the ferries are pretty fast too. Hong Kong is like the reliable mechanism of a Swiss watch. While I didn't quite get "wow-ed" by this city, I can appreciate its modernity and smooth way of functioning. If only San Francisco or LA had public transportation systems as good as Hong Kong's...

We arrived late at night in Hong Kong straight from the beach, from a small and quiet tropical island in the Philippines. We woke up to this (image above) - the view from our room's window. One day you're in a beach bungalow, diving and swimming, next day you're in a tiny room in the big city, surrounded by high-rise buildings. It reminded me of one of my favorite books growing up: Heidi, The Girl of the Mountains. In this book (in case you don't know it), a little orphan girl living with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps is taken to the big city to live in a mansion with a paralyzed girl, Clara. When Heidi gets to the city, she looks out of the window and tries to see the mountains, but she can't. There are too many other tall buildings around, so the visibility is not that great. She can't see the mountains anyway, as they are far away from the city. Heidi longs for nature, the great outdoors, the life she was used to - and she slowly loses excitement in life, until she gets really homesick and bed-ridden. Looking through my window in Hong Kong, I felt a bit like Heidi. I guess I'm just a small town girl, after all.

Electrical wiring on the hallway of the apartment we rented.
Accomodation in Hong Kong is very expensive. Luckily, Anne found us a cute and cozy room on Airbnb that was cheaper than the average Hong Kong price for travelers. By cheaper, I mean "only" 50 USD/night for our own room, where beds in hostels cost about 35 USD. The apartment where we stayed was decorated very tastefully with old Hong Kong memorabilia. It reminded me of the movie In The Mood For Love. The owner of the place was what I'd call a Hong Kong hippie-nerd. Smart, with a taste for vintage things and somehow quite similar to us. We tried to hang out with him a few times during the week, but sadly our schedules never synced.

Mailboxes in the apartment we rented.

Day 1 threw us right in the middle of a scavenger hunt. We had bought tickets to see 7 movies at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and we had 3 movies scheduled on Day 1. Armed with Google map directions and a compass, we had to find the venues for the movies and have enough time in-between movies to travel to the next venue. Hong Kong was the first place in our travels where I really wished I had an iPhone with real-time directions on it.

It feels like HK is fully built, with no more room for anything else, but somehow they're still building.

HK is famous for its deserts, so we tried a bunch of different street sweets. Here, Anne is trying a special mango shake with all sorts of things inside.

I tried green tea mochi with durian inside. I can eat durian without throwing up, but in the end I'm not too crazy about it. It's not something I would crave, but it was interesting to try, at least once.

We walked through the Temple St. night market and saw a lot of corner food stands where people eat directly on the street. This is old Hong Kong. For sanitary reasons, many of these places have been banned, but you can still find a few during night markets.

The merchendise at the night market was not that great. Mostly kitschy souvenirs and lousy t-shirts. The most entertaining thing we did that night was getting our palms read by a fortune teller. I got mine first and some things he mentioned about my personality were quite spot on. Others sounded like generalizations based on my nationality, ethnicity, age, marital status and profession. Anne hesitated getting hers future predicted, as she was afraid she might find out something she wouldn't want to know. But then she got hers read too, and it sounded a lot like mine. I wouldn't say the guy was a scammer, but he definitely had a pattern which he slightly adjusted from one customer to another. Everyone wants to hear they're smart, that they will advance in their careers and make a lot of money, right?

On a different day, while killing some time between movies (we felt like students in-between classes,) we walked on the Avenue of Stars in Kowloon, where all the famous Chinese actors have their names and hand imprints on the ground, much like Hollywood Boulevard in LA. During this stroll we got our portraits sketched by a street artist, and we also got the caricature of us that crowns our blog's header image.

It looks like me, right?

At one of the venues of the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

Vintage Chinese babes, a print I liked in a book at the Art History Museum.

The cockpit of an American rocket at the Space Museum.

Hong Kong skyline during the 8pm light show. It wasn't as impressive as the one in Singapore. And just like the one in Singapore, it made us crack Burning Man jokes.

One night we met up with Jason, a friend of my dear friend Matthew Veloz. Jason is from Columbus, Ohio and now lives and works in Hong Kong. He took Anne and I to a traditional Chinese hot pot dinner. I've never had one of those before, and it was pretty exciting. It was also my first time to try frog legs.

A Chinese hot pot is basically a big pot of water boiling in the middle of your table, in which you dip either meat or vegetables to cook them yourself. You then dip the meat/veggies in your own little bowl, where you've previously mixed a personalized concoction of spices. We got a pot that was split in half: one half had regular water, while the other half had spicy water. We dipped various things such as thin slices of lamb meat, frog legs, prawns, clams, different types of veggies, tofu, etc. We got carried away and racked up a big bill, but I don't regret it; it was delicious!

After dinner, Jason and his friends took us on a night ride on the tram, during which we drank cans of beer. Drinking on the street in Hong Kong is legal and a lot of people do it, because it's cheaper than drinking at bars. So apparently a lot of young people just buy beers at a corner store, then go in an alley or little public area and hang out with their beers. Another cool thing is that you can use the Octopus card (used for subway and public transportation) to pay for your beers at a 711 or at drink/snack vending machines.

One morning in Mong Kok (the neighborhood where we stayed) we tried to get dim sum and all they had was Chinese menus. It was a true moment of  "lost in translation" because the waiter didn't speak English to explain to us what the menu said and there were no photos we could point at. But we finally managed to order.

We took the double-decker tram for a long ride to one end of the line and back. It's a great and cheap way to see Hong Kong for only 2.3 HK dollars (~30 cents USD).

Some of the streets in Hong Kong are narrow and steep, lined up with antique and souvenir shops, which reminded me a lot of San Francisco's Chinatown.

The roots of this tree remind me of a Banksy grafitti.

Old Peak Train tickets.
One day we took the Peak Train, which, as the name says, takes people to the top of the highest hill behind all the skyscrapers, from where you can take that picture-perfect photo of Hong Kong's skyline. The train is a more sophisticated version of San Francisco's cable car. It is pulled by cables on a steep hillside, offering some crazy disorienting views of tall buildings that seem to be jutting out of the ground at weird angles. The buildings stand vertical, of course; while you are going at an angle. It feels even weirder when you go back down and you are sitting facing away from the direction in which the train is going.

Anne on the Peak Train.

As we got to the top of the mountain, this is what we saw: nothing. It was a foggy, rainy and extremely windy day, with zero visibility. Again, it reminded me of San Francisco's weather, and got me thinking of all the poor tourists I always see walk across Golden Gate bridge on one of those foggy days when you can't even see a few feet in front of you. I don't feel too regretful for not seeing Hong Kong's skyline, I can always go a Google image search and find a million identical photos taken by a million other tourists who have been there. Enveloped by fog, with a huge white wall around us, we had nothing better to do than treat ourselves to a hot coffee and goof around with a few silly photos like the one above. Oh, not to forget to mention that the Peak is actually a full-on, multi-story mall, with cheesy souvenirs and electronics. You have to pay to get to the View Deck. Hong Kong is the heart of consumerism. It made me think of how much money San Francisco would make if they built a 5-storey mall at the top of Twin Peaks and charged all the tourist buses a cover fee for the privilege to drive up there and see the city from above... (Disclaimer: I"m obviously being ironic. I am glad and proud that the city I live in is not money-crazed and not turning every beautiful spot we have into a business.)

At the top you could write a note on a paper heart and tie it inside the frame of a giant metal heart. Sanju obviously loves Chinu quite a lot.

One night we met up with Anne's friend Laura and her boyfriend Lawrence. It just so happened that both Anne and Laura had almost the same shade of nail polish, a great reason for the girlie shot above.

Laura and Lawrence had been living in Hong Kong for 3 years. They took us to one of their favorite Chinese food joints where they go so often that the waiter knows their usual order by heart. The food was amazing, especially the breaded fried squid (located in the foreground of the image above). It was probably the best fried squid I've ever had in my entire life. We washed that down with some good cheap Chinese beer.

The bottles beautifully displayed in the image above are all sorts of organic herbal teas for sale at a shop in one of the subway stations. Most subway stations in Hong Kong are like mini-malls, loaded with clothing, cosmetics and food shops. Apparently the company that owns the Hong Kong MRT (subway) is one of the richest in Hong Kong, renting out all these underground malls.

Anne and I both tried out one of the teas on display at the subway herbal tea shop and they were quite good, but not that special.

Tired of the Chinese food options, we were happy to find this sandwich joint that makes its food with so much passion that it takes their employees three months of training to master the art of slicing veggies. Word, their sandwich was pretty good.

Hong Kong was the place where I happily unloaded some of my possessions, presents, old books and souvenirs into a box bound via sea mail to San Francisco. We happened to be in HK during the Holy Week weekend (Catholic Easter) and it was difficult to find a post office that was open. We finally found the main post office in HK where we saw isles after isles of hundreds of mailboxes.

A view of Hong Kong from the double-decker tram.

A grapefruit as big as Anne's head.

I think she's chopping up ginseng.

Roasted chestnuts at the produce market.

Dried star fish and some long ass fishes.

Just a regular crosswalk in Hong Kong and probably a quarter of the people that crossed the street in the interval of a minute or so. Beats New York for sure.

These fishes were carved in half in such a way that their hearts were still beating. They use this method to keep them alive as long as possible, thus keeping the meat fresh. At least fish don't scream when they're in pain.

All sorts of cute fish for sale in HK. If I lived there, I'd probably shop at the market and cook new dishes every day. All food and produce is so fresh.

Fish seller at the fish market.

Crowding up for the subway.

Somehow, we started craving a lot of food from back home, so one night Anne ordered a Pizza Hut delivery. NERD ALERT: we spent the night in bed, eating a whole pizza and watching Ted talks via StumbleUpon Video.

We took the Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong. The ferries are old and old-school, packed with people and run every day. The ride is only a few minutes and you get to see the skylines of both Hong Kong and Kowloon from the middle of Victoria Harbour.

A massive Chinese container ship crossed our path while we were on the bay. There is just as much traffic through Victoria Harbour as there is on a freeway: ferries zipping back and forth, fast ferries rocketing by, big cruise ships, containers ships, small navy patrols, etc.

On Sunday morning we went to see the Filipino domestic helpers get together in the public areas of HK during the only free time they have to socialize. Apparently there are 500,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong. They come with a "domestic helper" work visa. They are basically cleaning and cooking staff for the busy and rich people in Hong Kong, much like live-in servants. Most of them are women and they get paid about $300/month. On Sundays, their only day off, they come to meet and socialize in a pubic square or on the steps or passages near a bank in Central. They sit down on cardboard boxes, eat food, play cards and chat. It's their own Filipino time. The weekend we were there was even more special, as it was Catholic Easter, a huge holiday in the Philippines.

Filipina domestic workers celebrating Easter the only way they can.

We met a few ladies from Cebu, the island in the Philippines that we had flew from into Hong Kong. They were all smiles, warm and friendly. It made me really miss being in the Philippines. The people in that country really got under my skin.

There were also some ladies from Malaysia and from Indonesia, also domestic workers. Here's Anne posing with a Malaysian girl.

A beauty contest for Filipina migrant worker girls was going on in the square as well.There were tons of girls trying to outdo each other in sexy mini dresses and high heeled shoes. I wish I could've told them that's not sexy and classy and that their photos might end up on some shady websites.

This is one of the most popular Sunday gathering spots for Filipinas in Hong Kong. It's under a bank that was built on stilts because some dude advised the architects/developers that it's better for the feng shui of the bank.

Some of the Filipina ladies were practicing for various synchronized dance routines, such as this one. With long red skirts and fans flapping in the air, their dance reminded me of flamenco, maybe a reminiscence of Philippines' Spanish colonial past.

We took a ferry to the small fisherman's island/village of Cheung Chau. I envisioned the village to be idyllic, traditional and lost in time, but it turned out to be a mega tourist-destination, with tons of restaurants lining up the harbour and a ferry packed with maybe two thousand people. We were slammed from all directions like sardines, much like you'd be if you took a bus in Chinatown in San Francisco. I think the Chinese really like to push and touch when it comes to getting on and off public transportation.

 Just a little screenshot of the map, just to show you where Cheung Chau is compared to Hong Kong. 

The Cheung Chau harbor.

Old ladies hanging out in a park in Cheung Chau.

Anne and her fluffy new friend. This was in a cat clothing store in Cheung Chau. The store had 2 resident cats and 1 dog, to demo to customers how happy and comfortable your pet can be if wearing pet leather chaps, pet cowboy hat or pet tutu. The secret is to start dressing them up when they're young. In time, they'll get used to wearing clothes and not try to take them off all the time. I still think of it as animal torture.

 Street scene in Cheung Chau.

We ate some delicious pot stickers that were assembled and fried on the street by this lovely couple and their son. Fast forward one week to India where I am now: I could never eat anything on the street here, it's so dirty and gross.

 Shrimp set to dry on the street in Cheung Chau.

 On the ferry back to Hong Kong.

View of Kowloon from the ferry.

 A poster I liked in one of the bars we went to one night.

We spent an awesome night of dancing and drinking in a bar in Hong Kong, where we met a nice couple from England/New Zealand who'd been living in HK for 6 years. There was a band playing live music and the guitar player was amazing - great stage presence and good voice as well. It turns out he was Filipino, who are probably the best in the world at playing and singing covers.

 On the fancy (and pricey) express train to the airport.

View of Hong Kong from a bridge the express train to the airport went over.

At the airport, a bunch of Indian men were waiting to check in their heavy luggage. It seemed like each of them had four or five of these huge bags. I asked one of then what are they all hauling and he explained they are buying undergarments and clothes for cheap from China and are selling them for a profit in India. 

The Hong Kong airport is probably one of the most picturesque in the world. From one side of the airport you can see the beautiful green hills of Lantau island. From the windows on the other side you can see the ocean.

Here we are on Sri Lankan Airlines, flying from Hong Kong to Bangkok, where we had a short overlay before flying to New Delhi on Philippines Airlines. All the flight attendants are hottie Sri Lankan ladies wearing their colorful saris with peacock feather prints.

Sri Lankan Airlines is trying to be classy - they are giving us printed menus of the food and it all sounds so fancy on paper, as if you're about to dine at a fine restaurant. I don't even know what some of those things are.

Onward to a new destination.... India, here we come!