Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Edge of Never

Every now and then you see something that touches you, as “The Blind Side” touched millions; I saw a documentary “The Edge of Never”.

A documentary feature film set in the world of big mountain skiing, The Edge of Never is a real-life coming of age saga about the tribe of skiers who challenge the biggest, most dangerous mountains in the world. In 1996 extreme-skiing legend Trevor Petersen was killed in Chamonix, France. Nine years later, skiing icon Glen Plake decides it’s time for Trevor’s 15-year-old son, Kye, to ski the route that killed his father and join the tribe of big-mountain skiers. In this thrilling film, three generations of skiers mentor Kye as he attempts to finish his father’s final run. A ripping adventure tale of a young man coming of age, The Edge of Never is also a rich and subtle portrait of men and women who live big in the face of their greatest fears. Written and directed by William A. Kerig, produced by Peter Schweitzer, based on the book of the same title written by Kerig, The Edge of Never was shot on location in Chamonix, France.

Kye meets his father’s mentor, Anselmo, who lost hist 24yr old son to the mountains. Kye is 15yrs but he is small and looks like he’s 10. I thought about how people have died and gotten hurt doing this. Despite the loss, the movie is about closure and acceptance.

What greater ambition is there to live and die doing what you love? What is life w/o risk? Without risk, there is no reward.

Sorrow is the same coin as joy. Without sorrow we couldn’t appreciate the joys in our lives. To understand and accept sorrow is to understand that the opposite of Love is not hate, it is apathy. We should always be passionate about something in our lives.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day 18: Good Bye Hong Kong

The day started foggy & rainy, I was pouting cuz it’s my last day & I wanted to go to the Peak. Well, it was still cloudy when I got to the HK side ferry terminal. 

But I was too early for the Peak tram to start running, so I walked over to check out the Midlevel Elevators, huff & puffed since in the mornings the silly things only run down hill. But I had a fun ride coming down! 

I loved this side street. The Flying Pan? Someone has a great sense of humor!

You catch the peak tram from the Star Ferry terminal and I headed up to the top again, this is the only double decker bus I saw that was open. By the time I got on, there was a break in the clouds and I kept praying that it held.

It held long enough to take a few pictures and since I'm flying out tonight, I ran down as soon as I was done taking a few pix, I can't post more because I have to leave soon. Enjoy the pix.

Here's the famous Peak Tram.

It's an awesome view and really changed my view of Hong Kong =D!

I tried to clean it up as best I could, trying to make the colors pop, but it's as good as it's going to get & it doesn't come close to showing the breathtaking beauty of a view from the Peak.

Caught him on his smoking break, I hope he didn't come up dragging someone behind him!

My final ride on the Star Ferry :-[

What a beautiful boat! I'd live it in! I think it's one of the tourist boats that ply the Harbour.

Lots of smells, lots of noise, on the Kowlooon side. I think this is called the Mongkok area. My hotels in the Tsim Sha Tsui area.

I couldn't tell you what it was they were serving, after almost 3 weeks in mainland China, I've had quite enough of mystery meat.

Instead I found a hole in the wall Thai restaurant. I sat down, he couldn't speak English or Mandarin, I couldn't speak Cantonese, so I dredged up my memories of conversational Thai that I had learned when I went to Bangkok and with a lot of pointing and grinning, I got some really good Thai food.

Hong Kong has lots of people, the videos are loud as loud can be. It also has this noise that sounds like tapping, when the light turns green it has a constant tap-tap-tap, but then it counts down and at 10secs left, its a really fast taptaptap. I get it, Nathan Road is a very busy street, buses, trucks, cars and the unbelievable mass of humanity. But the signal is really LOUD!

Then they drive on the left side here in HK. Someone actually grabbed my arm and yanked me back to the curb when I stepped off and was looking the wrong way so I almost got hit by a bus. When I looked back to thank the guy, I smile, he looked at me like I was an idiot, my smile fell and I felt like one.

This is Ladie's Market, the stalls open up in the afternoon and stays open until nighttime, I think. Anyways, the shopkeepers in Stanley Bay were all laid back and practically somnambulant compared with the shopkeepers at Ladies' Market. 

I had finished my shopping so I was just doing a lot of sightseeing. When I shop at places like these, I try not to touch anything, touching it signals the seller that you are really interested. So I just meander about and look. 

I actually got grabbed by the arm, when I tried to haggle on something and decided against buying it, the woman yelled at me as I walked away "You got no money no way." I was so shocked I had to bust out laughing! If only she knew!

I didn't stay, I had a hard time getting a cab when it started to rain hard, but I got one.

Well, it's time for me to leave Hong Kong, get back to Chicago. I will land in Chicago on Thursday, but on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I will still be away from home because I have to attend a business convention that I thought I had gotten out of. But someone else who was supposed to go got this crazy flu so I was volunteered in absentia! No rest for the weary!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 17: Hello Stanley Bay!

I'm so irritated with myself. I started the day, by being awake, didn't sleep last night. Probably because I was so wired AND trying too hard to relax. Sometimes things aren't what they seem and you wonder if you've been deluded. Then you wonder if you were awake or asleep. I should never be allowed near the internet or any other digitally inducing communication gadgets.

I finally went to bed just as the sky lightened, I slept too briefly but then I woke and remembered where I was, I smiled and jumped out of bed, purpose running through my veins.

I went downstairs to the China Hong Kong City, it’s a set of buildings that house the China Ferry terminal, a mall and my hotel. Instead of eating at the hotel restaurant, which is pricey, I went to the food court and got a large bbq pork dumpling and a cup hot coffee. 

I could have easily gone down to street level just outside HK City and taken the bus that would have taken me all the way to Stanley Bay. Instead I took the walk down the street and entered Harbour City and cut through it.

This is just a random stair case that I saw and it looked so cool, I had to stop and take a picture.

When I came out of the mall, I was at the Star Ferry. I love water, whether rivers, ponds, lakes, but I obsess over the sea.

Old fashioned tugboat, against the Kowloon skyline.

 This is the Hong Kong Island skyline.

After we dock at the terminal, I ask around to get to the Stanley Express bus. I'm told to just go across the street, the ticket vendor points across the parking lot where there are double decker buses. I thank him and walk.

I keep walking until I end up at the International Financial Center (IFC), I don't know what it is,but I go in and it's a mall. Ok. So I ask again and the info guide tells me to head for the MTR. Ok, I see the signs, it's a really nice looking mall, high end stuff, chrome, glass and marble.

I see the MTR signs and I follow it. But it takes me to underground trains. I'm all confused. I go back up to the mall level, find a uniformed guard who kindly walks me out of the mall and shows points out a set of bus terminals and tell me I can find my bus there. 

I have been told by one of my host that when I go to Stanley Bay, I need make sure that I sit in the front seat, on the second level of the double decker bus. He said it was the most scenic ride, if I am not queasy about heights or movement, I would enjoy myself. As a matter of fact, I'm scared to death of heights, but how many times do I get to ride a double decker bus? The last time I was in Stanley Bay, I was driven up by my hosts. This time I was going to relax and have fun.

This is the famous Stanley market, the stereotypical  stalls with goods piled one on top of each other, tight and closed in.

I woke up late so by the time I got here, it was closing in on almost 2pm. 

I wanted what I wanted, even though the stalls selling food were really very tempting. But I had my mind set that I was going to eat at my favorite place, sit down and be served. No buffet, no fast food, no boiled peanuts!

I found my way to the waterfront, enjoy the pictures. 

There are lots of nice little eateries, like I said, every thing you could want. But I had my heart set on something else. This is the Stanley waterfront.

Off to my left are these condos. How I wish I had that kind of money, so I could live in this beautiful island in a place with a view of the ocean.

There is a section that if you keep your back firmly turned, it's as if you were in a totally secluded island. It's beautiful and yes, I did scamper on the rocks like a 4yr old. Only I didn't fall, or crack my head or any part of my body on the jagged rocks. I just enjoyed letting my inner child romp.

But eventually, I have to turn around and from the rocks this is what I see. Another view of the Stanley waterfront. Look closely at the hill behind the buildings. There is a small path that leads to the top. I wish I had the time, I would definitely want to see that climb.

Across from the horseshoe shaped waterfront, is another set of high rises. All that glass! Whew, can you imagine the sunsets? 

This is called Blake Pier, I never did make it out there.

This is the Murray House, the Maritime Museum is there and that 2nd floor balcony at the very end is my destination. I hope I can get a nice next to the balcony table.

So I didn't get a table right at the balcony, all the small tables were taken, I couldn't very well expect them to seat me. But what a nice consolation prize, I may not have gotten the ocean view, but this is a pretty beautiful view too. 

It's not a real palm tree, it's a potted plant, but it will have to do. I get to sit and exhale. I'm not starving since I ate a late breakfast, but I wanted to eat.

It's salmon with greens and a lemon garlic sauce, that's a pureed tomato & olive oil w/the toast and off to the side is pureed potatoes. No Perrier, but Pellegrino is good too!

Did I want dessert? But of course! It's a frozen almond nougat, the strawberry has a drizzle of mango sauce and there is my coffee service, served with a mocha biscotti.

I was in heaven and yes, I got a few stares for taking pictures of my food. But I think those people who stared today, will take pictures of their food tomorrow. 

I don't think of it as being a dweeb, I think of it as enjoying the moment and if I take the long good bye journey to the end of my days, I will have these moments indelibly set and if even for a moment, I will remember bliss.

This is another view from the Murray House, how it looks like someplace in the Mediterranean.

How gorgeous is this?

 I look out into the afternoon sun and I see this quiet little boat, stark against the large cruise ship in the back ground. I've always had these romantic notions of living on a boat.

They still have these old style sampans flying around the island. I watched him come in.

I watched him looking like he was starting to settle in for the night.

In a world where I carry digital cameras, three cell phones(personal, office BB and a China cell phone), laptop, chargers, where the internet seems as necessary as breathing, this man lives as millions have lived for thousands of years. He lives by the labor of his hands and home is where he lays his anchor. 

Who lives the more fulfilling life?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Day 16: Hello Hong Kong

Well, we all knew it had to end one day, I like the traveling, but because it’s a business trip, I’m ready to go home. But I like to spend a few days recuperating before I tackle another 16hr flight back or in my case, travel time of approximately 23hrs, with over a 6hour stopover in Seoul.

There are several ways to get from Shenzhen to Hong Kong. Shenzhen holds the border between communist China and the New Territories.

Most people call it Hong Kong, but Hong Kong actually refers to Hong Kong Island and the peninsula that is called Kowloon.

Well, it’s easy to take a ferry from Shenzhen to Hong Kong or take the train which will take you right to the heart of Kowloon. Well, the last few days I’ve been feeling the wear & tear of this trip. So I when I woke up this morning, I was feverish.

If you come in by public transportation, when you get to customs in Hong Kong, you will get scanned by a thermometer. I had one colleague who had a raging fever and only got through by placing an ice pack on his forehead for as long as he could so when he finally crossed through customs, his temp was normal.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m not going to be stuck in mainland China.

I was planning on taking the ferry down to Hong Kong since I’ve taken the train in before, I’ve never ridden the Chinese ferry system. But when faced with the possible deleterious possibility of being turned back from the border, I made the decision to ask my hosts to see if they could get me a private driver who has a special license that lets him drive between mainland China and Hong Kong.

So they called me a driver that they knew, but a stranger to me of course. It’s strange that I have to come to China where I get into cars with strangers who can’t speak English and yet I trust them completely to get me to where I need to go. But I get into a cab in Chicago late at night and I call or text the cab # to someone, just in case.

He will drive me through Shenzhen and right up to the boarder. It’s not a long drive from where I was to get through the city and to the border. In the meantime, the driver chats me up a bit, he has a thick Hong Kong accent. I can understand the words in Mandarin when they speak it up in the north, Beijing, Shanghai, Ningbo, etc. But once I got to Guangzhou and the rest of the south, it is a blend of Cantonese & Mandarin and incomprehensible to me.

We’re chatting, then he tells me: “If the police ask, they don’t usually, but in case they do ask, you and I are friends.”

I listened when he said “Police”.
He’s a gypsy cab! He’s not supposed to be taking people back and forth between the borders for money.

And my stupid ass, replies “Ok…” I think of it for a moment while I mull over the point. “So how long have we known each other? Do you have family? Children?” OMG, I started working a back story in my head! In the split second he’s asked me to lie to the police, just in case I’m asked, my imagination has written a story. We’ve known each other for 5yrs, his boss and my boss are friends since their college days, blah blah blah.

I felt like an idiot.

 The boarder guards look like a toll road. I don’t have to leave the car, I sit in the back seat of this totally pimped out ride. But I am rehearsing my story. Which the more I think about it, sounds more suspicious than just a simple ‘yes’.

So this first pix is us waiting to exit mainland China, these guys will check me out of the country first, I give the driver my passport.

So I’m sitting in the middle seat, trying to look relaxed and innocent, which I am, I don’t even have pirated DVDs! So why does the police make me nervous? LOL

He's got a stuffed dog lounging on his dashboard, which in Chicago is illegal because it obstructs the driver's view. Mainland China they drive on the right side, just like we do in the US. It is only in HK that they drive on the left and the driver is on the right. 

Also, if you look close, that is a screen down in the middle there. When the car stops, the screen flickers alive and video images come on. I thought it was the front and the back, like some cars have the camera to show you when you back up. Well, his interestingly enough, were views down the sides of his car. It only comes on when he is on his brakes; at a full stop. Is it fear of carjackings?

We travel a few feet and we are in another toll booth, this time to gain entry to Hong Kong. It wasn’t long, if either inspection of my passport took more than 30secs I would have been surprised. It wasn’t long before we were off and running.

There really isn't a lot of traffic while we're still far in the northern part of the New Territories or SAR (Special Administrative Region).

This area is part of the Pearl River Delta, so the highway is strung together with a lot of bridges. This was a nice looking suspended bridge, but dusk was settling in, hope you can see it.

 I guess even as an adult, I've never gotten over my childhood thrill of crossing bridges.

The sun is dropping behind the mountains over mainland China.

There is a fork in the highway, this is the bridge that will take you to Hong Kong Island, well, I think that's what the driver said. Since I'm staying in Kowloon, we stay heading down the peninsula.

My hotel is walking distance from the Star Ferry terminal. It's actually right over the ferry that comes in from mainland China. If I were feeling better, I would have come off the ferry and simply taken the elevators to my hotel room.

There is a laser light show tonight between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. This beautiful sight is Hong Kong Island. 

My room is one of the tiniest rooms I've ever been in but what a crazy view, I open my window and I'm looking over Nathan Road!

It may be difficult to see, this is me trying to be artistic. I turned the lights on so you see the reflection of my tiny room, superimposed over the night view of Nathan Road.

Look closely, you can see my bed, the blue, red & white lights are cars on Nathan Road.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day 15: Shenzhen

Today, I just breathed. Not only because tomorrow afternoon I’m off to Hong Kong but it’s humid and warm. Since I like that sort of environment, does that make me a hothouse orchid? Hmm…

Anyways, all I have is a bunch of photos around the hotel. I think I’ve run out of words today.

Sunrise trying to get through the smog.

Here's my balcony, this is the view I see as I just hang out and breathe.

So I step out into the balcony, nice marble floor and view the empty grounds.

This is the view when I turn to the left.

That's another building, still part of the grounds, I think they may be for players during tournaments. I think, I'm not a golfer so I'm not to up on the legend of this place.

This is the view when I turn to the right. I really dig the palm trees!

The main dining hall was on the other wing so I had a 5 minute walk to get breakfast and the next few photos are just some of the sights I saw along the way.

I guess they were going for a nautical theme at this bar?

I think I was up too early for everyone else on a Sunday morning.

Behind the boat bar is this hidden away smaller swimming pool.
There was just so much beauty, I couldn't take pictures fast enough.

This is just outside the dining area, there is the resort retail shop and the players' lounge.

This is one of the front entrances. This is where the cars would pull up, but there was another entrance too, I think it's just different entrances for each wing.

I don't really know, I just wandered around, nodding at the gardeners and tried not to look like a giant dork taking pictures of bushes and shrubs.

As I walk out back towards my room, I walk past the main entrance, I have to walk behind this massive carving.

I walk behind and am struck breathless by this view.

This is the other side of the view, the picture from above was taken from the second floor of the glassed in staircase on the right.

This resort struck me with a nostalgia for all those 30s and 40s black-and-white movies where Bogie walks in wearing a white dinner jacket.

The beautiful wood deck chairs just looked beautiful next to the water fountain.

There is a swim up pool, of course.

I walked through that arch shown on this picture, there is a snack bar to the right there but it is closed.

As I turn around from the shot I took above, this is the next view as I walk back towards my room.

My room is on the first floor, this photo is the open air courtyard that faces my room, if you look closely, that little dark rectangle on the ground floor is the door to my room.

This place so reminds me of British colonial days, not that I was alive back in the day, but I'm Fatal Romantic for a reason. I remember those old films and when I'm here, it's like I've stepped back in time.

Especially when there is literally nobody around.

I'm down in the hallway to my room with the atrium lining my walk.

And this is the view that greets me every time I walk out of my door.

The only reason I even into this resort was that one of my Chinese hosts is a member of the club in excellent standing.

I will have a moment when I will rue leaving this idyllic place where I seemed to have walked back in time.

Well, it's almost 1030pm for me, gnite.