I mean... look at this view. I spent half a year taking this view and city for granted. Did you know that of all of Hong Kong land, around 75% is countryside? That is not obvious from the picturesque city skyline and images of the dense population that typically circulate online.
Then you take the subway and end up in places like this!
These are photos from the famous Dragon's Back hike to Shek O beach. I could detail the trail but there are many resources out there online on how to get to the trail head from Central. 5 years ago, Andrew and I first did this hike with a group of our new uni friends who we had only known for a few weeks at that point.
Step 1: Check the weather
According to Lonely Planet , Seoul's peak summer period is from late June to late August and as it turns out, my internship will be in the heat of this summer!
Try to avoid peak summer, from late June to late August, which starts off with the monsoon season, when the country receives some 60% of its annual rainfall, and is followed by unpleasantly hot and humid weather. Although air-conditioning makes summers much more bearable these days, many locals flee the muggy cities for the mountains, beaches and islands, which become crowded, and accommodation prices double. There is also the chance of a typhoon or two.
Typhoon? Monsoon? It's okay. Been there, done that. But in daily business casual attire?! I've done the bit where I attempt to wear as reasonably (and appropriately) little as I can to survive the humidity of Asia while trying to avoid unwanted sunburns. That was when I was an exchange student, now I must figure out how to balance business with humidity. As a gal who spent most of her life in sunny Los Angeles and San Francisco (except when Karl the Fog came by, of course) where the weather is generally dry, I've never had any real problem dressing for any occasion. I don't plan on having that problem in Seoul.
The month of June is characterized by gradually rising daily high temperatures, with daily highs increasing from 76°F to 80°F over the course of the month, exceeding 86°F or dropping below 69°Fonly one day in ten.
One of my Danish friends once told me, "There is no such thing as bad weather, only poor clothing choices."
Step 2: Pack your checked luggage
I have my clothes sectioned in unequal thirds including work outfits on the left, casual outfits in the center packed tightly into my large work purse, and various toiletries/accessories/items to the right.
Step 3: Pack your carry-on luggage and/or backpack
Step 4: Have all of your travel documents and IDs in one easy to reach place!
Here I have this great and pretty cheap Buxton bag I bought off of Amazon for travel purposes. I got the burgundy color for $11.24. It was a recommendation from a friend and it's incredibly handy! There's so many pockets for card storage and a neat little mirror attached to the inner front flap. I love that this can double as a purse for a night on the town or even walking around the city.
It's time for reflection but I don't know where to begin. I've finally mustered some energy and motivation to put this blog together now that my extreme jet lag is starting to wear away. My body has been waking up at 4 pm Los Angeles time thinking that it is 7 am Hong Kong time.
How do I describe my 6 month experience with anything but a whirlwind? From meeting new friends from all over the world to taking international business courses and learning exceptional amounts of so many different cultures, this is a semester I will never regret and never forget.
I met most of my great friends on a hike to Victoria Peak and they became the people I traveled with time after time...starting with the Philippines and ending with Thailand over the course of the semester. Over this time, I realized how ignorant I was to outside cultures and while I initially blamed this on the educational system with which I was brought up, it really came down to my own minimal self-exposure to the world. I'm so very happy to say that I've learned an enormous amount about myself, life, travel, and what it means to care for others.
I returned home a few days ago feeling ready to return to the reality of productive college student existence and ready to spend quality time with my little brother who I missed the most. It is nice to escape the humidity of Hong Kong and rejoice in the beauty of my temperate LA but while I feel so different and changed, everything back home has remained the same. I cannot say I didn't expect this as I did but it is just peculiar to finally be here and witness it in action.
Went for a day of shopping and relaxation in Shenzhen with Judy this fine day. I've already been to China via the Shenzhen/Hong Kong border many times so getting there was a piece of cake. One simply takes the Hong Kong MTR to Hung Hom, hop on the East Rail line to Lo Wu (which is the actual border between Hong Kong and China), and go through immigration. Once you get past immigration, the station becomes Luo Hu, which is the putonghua pronunciation whereas Lo Wu is the Cantonese equivalent. That is when you know you are in China -- you'll also realize this upon being restricted to squatters as your only source of consumption relief. Bahaha. With many months of Asia in our pockets, we knew to bring our own tissue and other toiletry needs that we once took for granted (Hand soap? Check). A great thing about Shenzhen is that the subway system is nearly identical to the Hong Kong MTR. The only difference is the color scheme as Shenzhen's is green and the striking lack of advertisements in Shenzhen when compared to Hong Kong. I suppose it's expected but coming from Hong Kong, the China subway almost looked sterile.
Anyhow, we decided to explore Dongmen Market which we heard was an ideal location for local shopping and cheap finds. This was indeed true but Judy and I found the local market to be a massive sensory overload. Stores upon stores alongside stalls blasting any catchy saying on their speakers. Never have I ever been surrounded by so much neon and nauseating lights. Too much clothes? I thought I'd never say that but yes, we couldn't handle the amount of shoes, socks, dresses, everything, everywhere! We ended up deciding to grab street yums and people watch before heading to our next destination. While wandering about, I stumbled on this gem that I recorded. Real life fruit ninja (sort of) but see the video below and you'll know what I mean. Apologies for the poor quality as it was shot on my outdated Nexus One.
Afterwards, we returned to the Luo Hu Commercial City right at the border and ended up spending the rest of our day there. The summed up in too many shoes purchases, a fascinating drug bust and Judy crying (and occasionally shrieking) during her massage. Good times.
Today is Thursday, May 9th. I've said this many times over the semester but these past 5 months have been nothing less than a whirlwind. I am currently overlooking Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan Province, China on Day 2 of a trek over mountains, rocky inclined paths, and waterfall streams.This is is Day 7 of 9 in this province. Andrew and I have gone through quite a bit of travel starting with flying into the Kunming Airport from Shenzhen (after taking the 3 hour MTR from Hong Kong).
We started off our trip by staying at this interesting hostel/bar called The Hump Hostel in the city of Kunming.
We then took a bus to Dali which turned out to be a beautiful ancient town with lots of character and cheap and delicious food (6 yuan/meal!). We took a half-baked hike to one of the small hills in the area and passed through the remnants of what appears to be a poorly-cleaned night/day festival. Here are some handy bins part of the amenities provided to us by the bus service.
We encountered the Great Wall of China! (Just keeeeeding)
After a couple days in Dali, we took a 2 hour train to Lijiang, another beautiful but very touristy ancient town.
Now that I'm in Tiger Leaping Gorge with some time to reflect, I can't quite perceive life the same way anymore-more specifically how much I struggle with Chinese and Chinese culture. I tend to claim that I have intermediate fluency in Putonghua but I get so nervous and flustered when speaking at times. It doesn't help that my listening comprehension is particularly weak in Yunnan where there is a strong local accent. My strength lies in the more standard Beijing/Taiwanese accent.
中虎跳 has been so amazing and gorgeous with its ridiculous 28 bends and hours of trekking. Admittedly, at some points during the trek inclines I really just wanted to buy a donkey ride. It didn't help that local men followed us up the mountain path on their donkeys early on constantly shouting over, "美女, 你要騎馬嗎? 美女, 累嗎?" Yes, I was 非常累, but Andrew let me take many breaks along the way and was incredibly encouraging. In retrospect, I wish we stayed 3 days instead of 2 so we could have finished the trek from one end to the other. Breathtaking beauty.
We got lost a couple of times since the arrows on the ground are no longer very obvious. Once, we ended up in the front yard stable of someone's home while it was pouring rain. Andrew finally decided to put on his waterproof clothing so there we were in the middle of a stable with a new horse as our friend and Andrew stripping down to his boxers to change. With our stroke of luck, the woman who lived there walked up the path to her house and saw us while Andrew was mid-change. Thankfully she was a nice old woman who told us that we were on the wrong path and redirected us. "走錯, 走錯" became more common on our trek than we would have liked. However, there was always something to see and it was always so rewarding because of the kind locals we were surrounded by.
Had to re-energize some time through the hike with a quick power nap!
And, of course, it was unbelievably worthwhile.
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