July 9, 2017 – Bird Cafe and Sukkien Garden

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Jessica loves birds and I’m a little afraid of them, so I thought it would be great to visit a Bird Cafe! We had lunch there and then had the option of holding two birds each. I choose an African parrot and a cute owl! I’m not sure what species they were specifically because all of the displays were in Japanese. It was a lot of fun just hanging out there and the staff were lovely.

In the afternoon, the two of us walked to the Shukkeien Garden, which literally means Shruken Scenery Park. Construction of Shukkeien was begun in 1620, the year following Asano Nagaakira’s installation as Daimyō (feudal lord) of Hiroshima. It expresses the idea of collecting and miniaturizing many scenic views. It is also famous for beautiful flowers. The garden presents the four seasons and is designated as an outstanding beautiful spot by the government. I loved it there and even spent some time meditating.

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July 8, 2017 – A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and Hiroshima Castle

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For breakfast, we stopped by my favourite Japanese bakery called “One Coin Bakery” because everything costs about 100 yen (about $1.00 CAD). They offer many delicious sweets along with Japanese style buns with hot dogs, fried chicken and potatoes, and even one with noodles inside!

The A-Bomb Dome was designed by Czech architect Jan Letzel and was completed in April 1915. At 8:15 am, August 6, 1945, an American B29 bomber carried out the world’s first atomic bombing. It exploded 600 meters above the city. It ripped through the building (and most of the city) killing everyone instantly. In 1996, the A-bomb Dome was registered on the World Heritage List, as it is one of the last remaining building from that time, which is now preserved. It stands as a memorial to the bombing. Standing outside the decrepit building, I can’t even imagine how the survivors must have felt after that day.  It’s an odd juxtaposition against the modern city skyline.

Afterwards, Jessica and I walked a few minutes away to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The park is a symbol of hope for perpetual world peace and total abolition of nuclear weapons. It indeed feels peaceful. There, we visited the Bell of Peace, the Children’s Peace Monument, and the Memorial Cenotaph, Peace Flame, and Peace Bell.

At the far end of the park lies Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (200 yen) which holds many artifacts from the bombing and describes the war in detail. It also collects and displays belongings left by the victims, as well as photos and other materials that convey the horror of that event. In total there are three levels which include sections on Hiroshima’s history, video testimonies from survivors, the dangers of nuclear weapons, and more. I find it truly baffling that nearly 92 percent of the city’s 76,000 buildings were destroyed or badly damaged and by the end of December 1945, around 140,000 people had died. According to the museum, “Hiroshima’s deepest wish is the elimination of all nuclear weapons and the realization of a genuinely peaceful international community.” I highly recommend this museum.

Next, the two of us visited the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims. Established by the Japanese Government in 2002, it is a place where one can remember the atomic bomb victims and think about peace. Guests can also search and view photos of the deceased and read a list of their names. It was very somber, yet peaceful.

On our way to Hiroshima Castle, we stopped at the Hypocenter, the exact spot where the bomb exploded 600 meters in the air. Just signified by a plaque, today, it looks like any other street in town.

Hiroshima Castle was established by Mori Terumoto, one of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s council of “Five Great Elders”. It is representative of a flatland castle. It is also known the “Carp Castle” since the area where the castle was built was then called oi-no-ura and “Koi” means carp in Japanese, the castle was given the nickname “Carp Castle” in later years. The observation tower at the top is lovely to look out from. You experience a great view of the city. The preceding floors have several displays about the history of the castle as well as some weapons and armour.

In the evening, we stopped at a Jazz club and enjoyed the jam session that was taking place.

July 4-7, 2017 – Couchsurfing in Hiroshima

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During my first few days in Japan, I stayed with a lovely couchsurfing host in Hiroshima named Matsue. Although she worked during the day, she made time to see me in the evening, which was great. Mitsue taught me several Japanese phrases and about the culture of Japan. She also introduced me to a friend of hers who I went bowling with another day.

During the daytime, I explored Hiroshima’s sights on my own including Hon Dori Street and Hiroshima Peace Park. Hiroshima is known as the international city of peace, the city of rivers, and as a symbol of reconstruction. I instantly fell in love with it when I arrived and I could easily see myself living there in the future. Its population is only one million people, but it still has a small town feeling to it. Everything is very walkable.

While meandering around town I also ran into Robin, a guy that I had met in Cambodia. We went out for Hiroshima style okonomiyaki and caught up! It was great to see him again.

My friend Jessica from Vancouver arrived quite jetlagged on the 7th, but we ended up going out anyway!

Cultural Notes and Observations: Hong Kong

  • Great Metro System! You can use your “Octopus” card to get everywhere as well as pay for items in stores, and many other things
  • Very international
  • Leaking air conditioners – puddles of water on city streets
  • Clean water, but the pipes are old so most people still drink bottled or filtered water

Foods I’ve Tried:

  • Milk fish
  • Pineapple pork bun (dim sum)
  • Giant fish ball from Chang Chu Island
  • Mango mochi
  • Lots of Chinese food

July 1, 2017 – Celebrating the Return of Hong Kong to the Motherland

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On July 1st I celebrated the “Return to the Motherland” with Irene and Joanne by going to see the fireworks. According to the website hong-kong-traveller, “July 1st in Hong Kong is a public holiday that commemorates the Anniversary of the Establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to Mainland China in 1997.” It was insanely busy trying to watch them from the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) side of Victoria Harbour. The metro was so packed security was rerouting people so they could only exit certain ways. I’m glad I was able to find Joanne and Irene okay.

The three of us were caught in a crowd on the street and we watched the fireworks from there. Just after they started it started pouring rain! I was so glad I had an umbrella. Four guys ended up huddling underneath it with me because they had no rain jackets or umbrellas. The fireworks display were insane! They had ones that exploded into hearts, flowers, and other shapes.

The following days I had lunch with two of my old friends from residence! Natalie and Irene. I helped my friend Hunter on his law paper as well.

 

June 30, 2017 – Cheung Chau Island with Natalie

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Hanging out with Natalie on Cheung Chau Island

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Natalie and I caught the ferry to Cheung Chau Island. It is a small, car-less island that is perfect for day-trips or weekend getaways, especially for couples. It has a very laid back and friendly feel to it.

The two of us walked along the narrow streets and promenade along the shore. As we crossed the island, we came upon Yuk Hui Temple. It was literally on the edge of the newly created basketball court. What an interesting use of space!

We continued to a beautiful sandy beach called Tung Wan Beach. Unfortunately, by 10:00 am it was already too hot to lie on and there was no shade in sight. So instead, Natalie and I walked on the “Mini Great Wall of China” which was very cute! Everything on the island is much closer than I thought.

Afterwards, we grabbed lunch and headed to see Cheung Po Tsai Cave, which was named after a famous pirate born in the Hong Kong area. The cave was a very small crevice hidden between large boulders along the shoreline.

For lunch, we stopped and tried some Mango mochi and famously large and delicious fish balls. I love mango and mochi, so the combination of both was amazing!

June 28 – The Hong Kong Observation Wheel, the International Commerce Centre, and Mong Kok

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Nick and I in front of the Hong Kong Observation Wheel

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Following breakfast, Bernice was kind enough to take Nick and I to the iconic Hong Kong Observation Wheel. Although, we didn’t ride it (it’s no longer tall compared to the buildings around it), I enjoyed viewing it from the ground. Bernice also treated us to pineapple pork buns which were delicious!

The International Commerce Centre (ICC) is 484 meters tall and the 9th tallest building in the world. To get to the top. Nick and I went up two different elevators and through the Ritz Carlton hotel stationed on the tallest levels. The view is of Hong Kong is amazing!

In the late afternoon, I explored Mong Kok, a quirky district of Hong Kong. I found “Goldfish Market” a street full of pet shops where fish were sold in plastic bags along in store fronts. I also walked around Yuen Po Street Bird Garden where many shops sell exotic birds. Mong Kok is definitely a unique place!

June 27, 2017 – The Big Buddha, Po Lin Monastery, and a Symphony of Lights

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The Symphony of Lights at Victoria Harbour

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Nick and I made the journey to see the Tian Tan Buddha statue, also known as the “Big Buddha” which is directly opposite from the Po Lin Monastery. From where we were staying it took over an hour to transit there. However, the MTR and bus took us directly to where they were located in Ngong Ping Plateau on Lantau Island. The “Big Buddha” is 35 meters high and sits quietly overlooking the mountainous scenery among the fog.

A few minutes’ walk away stands the Po Lin Monastery, one of Hong Kong’s most important Buddhist temples. The monastery also includes the “Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas” which was incredible. Unfortunately photographs are not allowed in that specific room. Afterwards, we walked “The Wisdom Path”. Along the sides of the path are 38 wooden columns that have the lines of a poem inscribed on them. It is a very peaceful place.

In the evening we sauntered along “Temple Street” and bought some souvenirs before viewing the “Symphony of Lights” at Victoria Harbour. Buildings are lit up with colourful light displays in time to music. Some lasers are also involved, yet the show was not as extravagant as I had expected.

June 26, 2017 – Hiking Dragon’s Back Trail

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Overlooking Shek O Beach from the “Dragon’s Back”

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Nick and I were recommended to hike “Dragon’s Back” by locals people in Hong Kong, so we decided to give it a shot. It is easy to get to the start of the trail by public transit. Once there, you forget that you were just in a large city. At first you are met with a moderately steep incline until you reach the “dragon’s back” or the pinnacle of the mountain. From there you can see a breathtaking view of the coast and ocean as well as a glimpses of downtown. I especially liked that the hike ended at a Shek O Beach which wasn’t too crowded when we arrived. Jumping into the cool salty water felt great after a long day of hiking!

June 25, 2017 – Ocean Park

OCEANocean 2

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When Hunter said that we were going to Ocean Park, I instantly thought it was a water park so I packed my bikini and towel. However, Ocean Park is really an aquarium, zoo, and amusement park all-in-one (you don’t need a swim suit)! Luckily, Hunter has an annual pass which allows his visitors to enter 40% off the ticket price for the month of June! The group of us included myself, Hunter, Nick, and two of Hunter’s friends: Dan and Bernice.

We walked through the aquarium section and saw some very bizarre fish including Red and White Lionheads, Golf Ball Peralscales, and Calico Crown Pearlscales, just to name a few. In the next exhibit, we watched some adorable Asian small-clawed otters, which are the smallest otters in the world. They are native to most of South East Asia and southern sections of China. Next, we observed some playful spotted seals and sleepy arctic foxes. The penguins were being fed when we arrived which was a cool sight to witness. All of them were swarming the zoo keepers!

While we were there, we also rode the Cable Car which provides a spectacular view of Hong Kong’s landscape. I would have liked to go on it a couple more times if I had time. The five of us also tried a couple roller coasters which was fun!