Best Of The Last 30 Days

Hundreds, if not thousands, of incense rings burning at this temple. The rings were about 20 inches in diameter.  Photo taken from about 12 below the rings.

We are just now coming up on 30 days here in Hong Kong. It seems like a very short time. I wanted to share some of the best things we have encountered since we arrived.

  • Victoria Peak is just a mile away and when we hike to the top, you would never know you are in a big bustling city.  Beautiful trail, secluded and quiet, unbelievable views of the harbor and the city and lovely exotic vegetation.
  • Octopus Cards make life easy.  You just load that card at any Circle K (yes, Circle K like in the states) and you can use it on buses, subways, grocery stores, department stores, admissions to venues and much, much more!  No cash carrying required!
  • We like not having a car!!  Can’t believe how freeing it is to not worry about an auto.  The big plus is that walking helps with all the consumption of all the great food there is here to eat!
  • A subway ride costs about 65¢ US, and a taxi costs about $5 US to just about anywhere we need to go.  And a bus, tram or streetcar is about 45¢ US !  On top of that, you hardly ever wait for one to come by.  And, if you get on a bus and get lost, it is a cheap taxi ride home.  Or, you just stay on the bus until it comes round again!
  • There is a wonderful smell of incense coming from all the little and big altars that you find along the streets of Hong Kong. It is very soothing and pleasant.
  • There are lots of cats that you find running around the outdoor markets and sitting in small shops.  They are doing their job on the rodent population and in turn, they are being fed by lots of people.  I see little old men going out with dishes of cat food and water all the time.
  • The YWCA in Hong Kong does a lot of good work for women here and in China.  They also support newcomers, like myself, and domestic helpers that come from The Phillipines and Indonesia. I have met several very nice women and have leads on many interesting volunteer options.
  • Steve’s three-times-per week commute to Shenzhen in mainland China, takes just about 1 hour and 15 min.  Soon to be shorter when we receive our resident cards.  Wow!?  We’re going to be residents of Hong Kong!  Sounds pretty weird.
  • I can text home with no problem and Skype works great.
  • We have room for visitors.  Even though our new flat is pretty small, we have guest accommodations.  -xoJ


This is an old, very heavy Chinese made bicycle.

Not too many bikes here in Hong Kong. Mainly because it is not safe with the very narrow streets, double-decker buses and so many cars. Not to mention that most streets are steep with hills, making it impossible to ride uphill and hard on the brakes to go downhill.

This one is gas powered. It will do the trick on hills.

So Glad We All Voted!

Not that big of an announcement about Obama. But, article details his trip to Asia and meetings with the new, Premier Wen Jiabao, at the East Asia Summit in Cambodia and a visit to Myanmar taking place in just 10 days..

Text after text was coming in to my phone while I sat in a room with nine other newcomers to Hong Kong. I was the only American, and I was on the edge of my seat thinking and worrying about the election outcome. Finally, I had to apologize to the group for not being polite and monitoring texts, and that I was getting news of the election from the states. Everyone immediately wanted to know what was happening. The group was made up of German, Colombian, Australian, Trinidad and Canadian . Most have lived in several other places in the world before Hong Kong. The main question they had was; “how could anyone vote for Romney in American?” From their perspective, the choice was very clear and a Romney presidency would be very bad, not only for the US, but for the world. When I received the test from my sister “OMG..WE WON!!!!!” I happily relayed the message to an approving group.

Everything you Need

This shop has everything you need and more.

In Hong Kong, one could select a different street everyday of the week to explore and find something interesting.  I doubt that we will ever be able to cover everything in our time here. This was a great find and a place we will certainly return again and again.  There is just about everything from baskets to hardware to footwear to step ladders…you name it and you will probably be able to find it here.

There is also ceramics, and in a pattern that I have been looking to find.  These “rooster” bowls come in assorted sizes and are hand painted in China.    After we made our selections and a list for a return visit, we were amazed by the shop keepers skill at the abacus.  Yes,….. he still uses an abacus and faster than I could do it on the calculator.   -xoJ

Thoughts and Prayers

Technology today does not make it hard to keep up-to-date what is happening in the world.  We have been able to easily watch the unfortunate situation that is playing out on the east coast of the US. Hurricane Sandy’s destruction is monumental and gut wrenching.

I struggle for inspiration to post about the small wonders and discoveries that we encounter in our new life here, while so many in my own country are struggling with a new life full of need and discovery not near as pleasant as the one I am facing.

Our hearts goes out to everyone in the US affected by Hurricane Sandy. For now all we can do here in Hong Kong is say a prayer and donate. So, we do.

Living in the Mid-Levels


We had gotten a little “soft” after moving from Minneapolis.  We went from having a two-story house with gardening, a dog that we walked at least twice a day, plus all the intentional exercise to living in a much smaller flat with no stairs, no gardening and, sadly, no dog to walk. Oh yeah, then there was the car!

Thomas’s meet Honk Kong and a new way of living! Hong Kong Island is the largest of over 230 islands that make up Hong Kong and is surprisingly green and lush with many hills and mountains. Our neighborhood is in the Central Mid-Levels. To access the mid-levels, it is all up or downhill. Conveinently or thankfully, the world’s longest outdoor escalator system runs from top to bottom. Escalators run down in the early morning until 10:30 a.m. then reverse and run up for the remainder of the day until midnight. From top to bottom, the journey is over 800 m or 2,600 ft. The elevation gain is over 400 ft.  We have to ascend or descend several times a day and walk at least one direction. And since we have no car, there is significant walking involved everywhere to shop or commute to work etc. No soft life here!  –


The Big Buddha

We decided to be tourists around Hong Kong today. So off we went to see the Big Buddha on Lantau Island and the Po Lin Monastery. Good choice. It was a lovely, relatively low-humidity day and we got there early.

The trip was a mix of old and new, commercialism and simplicity. The MTR (subway)brought us to the island, and then we took a glass-bottom tram to the Buddha.

The tram station had all the feel of an over-the-top amusement park, and we walked in lines and snaked through dividers to enter the tram car. Once in the car, it was quiet and we started off over the hills and then out over the water. We were probably 600-800 feet high over the water, and then the tram started up the mountain. Below was lush vegetation and many birds. We could hear the birds in the trees as we went over the tops. The ride lasts about 25 minutes and after climbing higher and higher up the hills, we reached the top and could see the Buddha sitting even higher kind of floating above the trees.

Once you leave the car and start the walk to the Buddha, you have to go through an amusement-style village street. Very weird and obviously not part of the Monastery. There were Starbucks and several different noodle shops and souvenier shops along the way and amusemen-park-style music playing the same obnoxious tune over and over again. At the end of the street, it opens up and you can see a lovely working monastery beautifully cared for and a big sign telling you “go to the big Buddha.”  You smell incense and every garden is meticulously cared for, and there are big dogs lazing around in the grass and sleeping in the sun.  There are 240 steps to the base of the lotus that the Buddha is sitting upon. It is serene and calming to climb the stairs. At the top, there were 40 or so monks, nuns and Buddhists in active prayer, working their way clockwise around the base of the Buddha.

We spent quite a bit of time here taking in the view and considering where we were.  At one point Steve says, “can you believe we are living here?”   And, I can’t quite believe it.

Early Morning

Ferry boat transporting workers at 5:00 a.m.

View of Hong Kong island early a.m.This ferry brought workers to te Kowloon side from the island.  We are still working on getting through the jet lag after we hit the ground running. Have already viewed 17 potential apartments and are narrowing down a neighborhood. Can’t sleep so we are walking early in the morning.