Monday, April 21, 2008

Some Creatures Great and Small

With the typhoon out of the way and the sun drying things up, a group of us went out to the New Territories to hike about 11 kilometers on Stage 2 of the MacLehose Trail on Sunday.

This hike was nowhere near the level of difficulty of Violet Hill and the Twins, but it was longer and the scenery was magnificent.

This little guy picked us up near the start of the trail and led the way for quite a few miles before we lost him

Here's one of the many inclines along the trail 

Each time we reach the top of an incline, we were treated to a spectacular view

And then it was back down

Here I am making a new friend

And then, I saw dead people! Ancient burial ground complete with urns!

Here you can get an idea of one of our descents (of course there was an ascent preceding it). And yes, those people were part of my hiking group - I was that far ahead!

Here is an abandoned village that reminded me of Imber Village in England

When we finished our hike, we were to take a ferry boat back to the village where we started; however, we had just missed the last ferry for the day.  We were faced with hiking an additional 2-3 kilometers to God knows where, when one of the guys in our group called out to a small fishing boat. The woman on the boat said she could bring us back. It was a speed boat, but it was small and I was scared!  The eight of us piled in and we were off.

View from the boat

We crashed hard into the dock, but I did survive. From there, we took a bus to Sai Kung, which is famous for seafood and had a huge meal in one of the restaurants on the water. Unfortunately, we had to pick our meal -- I just couldn't do it (and neither could some other girls in the group), so we let the guys pick our meal. It was very good, but I felt guilty and am now contemplating giving up seafood for good!

Hmmm, how many of these wound up on my plate?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Typhoon Schmyphoon

I survived my first ever typhoon!  
Typhoon Neoguri, in case you hadn't heard, was the earliest typhoon to hit China in almost six decades -- and I know that the sole reason was so I could experience a typhoon before going home! Typhoon season doesn't typically begin until June.

When I left work on Friday, there was a level 1 warning in effect, which basically means that there's some nasty weather on the way.  By the time I finished dinner, the warning was up to level 3 (strong winds and expected to become stronger).  It was all very exciting! 

On Saturday, it was pouring with rain and very windy -- pretty much like a mild hurricane; basically, a tropical storm. It sucked that I couldn't really do anything outside though and I was bummed because it looked like my hike that was planned for Sunday was going to be canceled.

By 10:30 Saturday night, the rain and wind had stopped completely and everything miraculously dried up overnight.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Anybody have a flashlight?

The mother so subtly mentioned the other day that she never sees her name in this blog. My latest adventure had me thinking about her, so I am dedicating this post to the best mother ever!
Wednesday morning email exchange (edited - a lot):

Jo to Jill: Fancy a hike after work? There's a good, hilly, intense hike on Hong Kong island (The Twins and Violet Hill). I'll walk it and you can run it and we'll meet at the other end. It ends at Stanley. We can meet at 6:00 and finish by the time it gets dark.
Jill to Lailany: Hike tonight with Jo?
Lailany to Jill: Sure - we can get a good dinner in Stanley afterwards.
Jill to Jo: Lailany and I are in -- we will meet you downstairs at 6:00.

6:00 p.m.:  Meet up with Jo and take cab to start of hike. Begin hike, up a lot of steps and continued upward to the top of Violet Hill. I make a comment to Jo ("Were you freakin' kidding me when you said I could run this?" --- She was serious!)

6:something p.m. (okay, totally lost track of time):  We proceed down Violet Hill and get a glimpse of one of the Twins (yes, "Twins" means two, which translates to TWO MORE mountains to get up and down). At this point, I am just ecstatic to see the moon, as it is the first time I've seen the moon in Hong Kong.

We finished descending a few hundred steps on Violet Hill and then proceeded to climb up one of the Twins. Oh My God -- I could not believe how high up we were supposed to go and it was all steps . . . and it was getting dark! I kept thinking that my mother would be out of her mind if she knew where I was at that very moment. We were at a point where there really was no turning back -- either way, we were going to be stuck in the dark. Not only that, we kept walking into spider webs and spiders! So, here I was on a Wednesday night, stuck on the second of three mountains facing two of my fears:  spiders and falling down and breaking or spraining something that would keep me from running forever!
If you want to check out some pictures of what this hike looks like in the daytime, click here. If you look closely at some of the mountain photos, you can actually see the trail going up ONE of the mountains -- yes, we did that in the dark!

In all, we did probably close to 3,000 steps, hiked over rough and rocky terrain, disturbed about 1,000 spiders and prayed we wouldn't fall, have a heart attack or both! The entire time I kept saying to Jo, "You really thought I was going to run this?!"

We got to Stanley, finally (with no casualties), and got on a bus to the town center. As soon as we got on the bus, the driver took off like a bat out of hell before we were seated (which is normal around these parts) and I fell down hard in my seat. I said: "Wouldn't it be ironic if we had survived that entire hike only to break a bone on the bus?" That caused all of us to laugh our asses off.

Had a great seafood dinner and then took the bus back to Causeway Bay.

So, I have decided that I am going to do this hike out and back (probably 5-6 thousand steps in all for a round-trip) every weekend until the marathon -- in the daytime, of course!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Here I Go Again

Since hearing about my hike up to the Big Buddha a few weeks ago, Lailany and Eric really wanted to check it out. We had planned to do the hike and met on Sunday morning. They even convinced Theresa to join us (after a full night of partying for her).

We climbed and climbed -- sweating up a storm the entire way. Poor Theresa was falling behind -- the look on her face was priceless! Try as I might, I could not convince that crew to ditch the Buddha and proceed up to Lantau Peak (2nd highest mountain in Hong Kong).

Lantau Peak -- I may have to attempt it by myself

After about an hour and a half of nothing but climbing, we reached our destination. Then it was time to run up those 268 steps again! Eric flew up them -- I was following him, but fell a little behind. Lailany was just behind me, followed by Theresa.

Yeah, I know -- it is great marathon training

Here we are at the bottom of the Buddha -- you may notice how tired and sweaty we are (especially me)!

We took the bus back down the mountain, and as soon as Theresa saw the outlet malls, she got her second wind and spent the next few hours shopping -- the rest of us got on the train to go home.

Indecision 2008 (with apologies to Jon Stewart)

Okay, I am panicking -- I mean, really stressing. It is to the point that if I don't stop, I will wind up here.

HK Sanatorium & Hospital - I may just be crazy enough to be admitted!

There are five weeks until the Great Wall Marathon. I have been doing what I can (when I can) to train for this. From what I have read and heard, this is not like any other marathon I have completed in the past. Heck, I started running in Florida -- I am used to flat, flat running trails in high heat and humidity. Since I moved to California almost four years ago, I have added some hills and cold weather. But the Great Wall Marathon is 4,000 steps -- some of which have to be climbed using a rope, some hills (which are probably more like mountains in China), 15 miles of village running, and lots and lots of humidity, high altitude, and heat!

This really didn't bother me at all when I registered to run the marathon. But then, I talked Cindy into flying out here, and coaxed her into running the 10K. Then, I started training -- climbing steps, hiking, running in the middle of the day. I ran/stair climbed/hill climbed/walked/crawled approximately 14 miles on Saturday in just under 3 hours, and now I am really worried. I KNOW I can finish the marathon -- that will not be a problem. But, one of the main reasons for me doing this run is to get that darn medal (and of course, bragging rights). If I don't complete the run in under 8 hours . . . no medal for Jill. For those of you who know me well, you know that will kill me.

So, during my run this past weekend, I started making a Pro/Con list in my head for running the marathon and for skipping the marathon, but running the 1/2 marathon instead.

Marathon -- Pro:
  • Bragging rights
  • Medal (if I finish within the 8 hour time frame)
Marathon -- Con:
  • No medal (if I don't finish within the 8 hour time frame)
  • May not be able to walk for a few days afterwards
  • Will stress up until the start (not too much fun for Cindy or anyone else around me)
1/2 Marathon -- Pro:
  • I can complete this fairly easy -- no stress
  • Will be able to take more time to enjoy Beijing prior to the run -- again, no stress
  • Will be able to walk immediately afterwards
  • Will finish within 3 hours and have plenty of time to rest and party
1/2 Marathon -- Con:
  • Will totally regret not running the full marathon
So, my dear readers, I am leaving the decision up to you (again, those of you who know me well, know that I am probably the most indecisive person you have ever met). Please look at the poll on the upper right side of my blog and vote! Should I run the full or the 1/2 marathon? Let me know what you think and maybe I will take your advice!

Friday, April 11, 2008

My Little Pony

Before I left for Hong Kong, most of my friends gave me advice over where to go and what to do. I have really taken that advice to heart and am sometimes pleasantly surprised by what I encounter.

Barbara suggested that I check out the horse races. She's been to Hong Kong before (Barbara has been everywhere!) and told me that a huge part of the Hong Kong culture is the horse racing. She is right. And with the Olympics around the corner, Hong Kong is extremely proud to be hosting the equestrian events. Typically, I would not be caught dead at a horse track. Yes, I feel bad for the horses. However, I decided to just put my feelings aside and experience the culture. Besides, the Happy Valley Racecourse is an extremely short walk from both work and my apartment.

Wednesday night is race night. There are a heck of a lot of people who go to the races after work on Wednesday -- the serious gamblers have their own box seats, while the less serious and expats usually hang out on the ground in what is known as the Beer Garden. Hey -- if it says "beer" and "garden," how bad can it be? We got in to the track, purchased some really cheap (and good) draft beer, and waited for the race to begin. We had no idea how to even place a bet, so Lailany just shouted, "I'm for #7" and I said "I'm for #8" -- and they were off!

You can't see it here, but #8 is in the lead!

So, #8 came in 1st and #7 came in 2nd -- darn! We could have won some cash!

#8 making a victory lap

Part of the Beer Garden

We stayed for two races, about an hour or so, and then left -- I believe there are 5 or 6 races every Wednesday night. In all, I experienced some culture, had some fun, and still felt bad for the horses - but I am glad that Barbara had suggested it!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Scrubba dubba dubba

Sometimes I wonder if I have Chinese blood running through my veins. This is most apparent whenever I see the great people of Hong Kong in their daily and weekly routines of cleaning. I love cleaning - it is probably one of the most relaxing things for me and I feel soooooo good after when cleaning for hours, I can sit down, enjoy a glass of wine and just be surrounded by cleanliness.

I know it is Saturday when I am taking a walk and I see laundry hanging everywhere. Saturday is laundry day! I love laundry -- love washing it, hanging it, drying it and folding it. When I see laundry hanging high above, I think two things . . . 1) yeah, laundry! and 2) aren't these people worried that their laundry might fall down and get dirty?!

For me, I will continue to hang my clothes inside my apartment -- it's windy here and the pollution outside makes Los Angeles look pristine.

At exactly 5:00 every single day, someone comes into my office at work to remove the trash -- exactly 5:00 (it is eerie). Then at 5:30, they are back with the vacuum. Once a month, there is an entire weekend set aside for office cleaning. Gee -- I fit right in!

On another note, the Chinese people are so clean, that they even have a holiday where they clean the cemeteries! Two of my favorite things -- cleaning and cemeteries. The Ching Ming Festival is held in early April. This is when Chinese families go to the cemeteries and tidy up the graves of their ancestors. Now, they don't do the type of deep cleaning that I would do; however, they fill up bottles of water and then pour the water over the headstone. Some even pull up weeds. They also put flowers and plants on the grave.

Lining up for cleaning water

Even the Gardner plot was spruced up for Ching Ming!

The most ironic thing is that after all of this cleaning, the families burn "offerings" on the site (which most times cause fires on the mountains). The "offerings" are sort of three-dimensional paper items that represent stuff such as air conditioners, cars, furniture, clothing, and other material things that will make their loved ones happy.

Some dead guy will indeed be a sharp-dressed man with one of these shirts

Monday, April 7, 2008

I know, I know

I know I am behind on my postings -- but I have a good reason!  I'm helping my nephew with a school project and it has been keeping me busy. Besides, how can I turn down a face like this?

The culprits

So, for the past couple of weeks, I have been taking Flat Stanley everywhere. 

Here's some proof -- aren't we cute?

This weekend, I tried to cram in some educational stuff, because "Stan the Man" has been wanting to go to pubs, nightclubs, and the horse track (there may be an R-rated version of Stanley's adventures on this blog soon, but I am writing the G-version to go back to Orlando in a box full of Chinese candy, coins and pictures). Anyways, this weekend, we went to the Hong Kong Museum of Art in Tsim Sha Tsui and walked around the harbor on what is known as the Avenue of the Stars. 

Here's Stanley in TST doing his best Bruce Lee pose

Okay -- gotta get back to writing about Stanley's G-rated and educational adventures in Hong Kong!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

It's a (Huge) Small World

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to visit our Theme Park in Hong Kong (Hong Kong Disneyland, for those of you who hadn't guessed). The occasion was to observe/participate in the orientation program for new employees (Cast Members, for those of you who are picky when it comes to proper nomenclature).

As I was traveling on the train to the Park, a sense of deja vu hit me and I remembered that years ago I had a dream where I had to go to Hong Kong Disneyland for one day to observe the park and orientation program and report back (for work, of course). In the dream, I flew over the Park and took a car to the entrance. This was the first time that I had remembered that dream and it was freaky (maybe a premonition?!).

Anyway after the orientation program, we had a chance to play in the Park. My first impression:  Wow!  It is soooooo clean!  My second impression:  Wow!  It is so small, yet spacious!  My third impression:  No wait for Space Mountain! Thank God it is a yucky Monday and the Park is empty!

My orientation group at the Park entrance (yes, we were freezing!)

Before going our separate ways, the orientation group watched the 3:30 parade together. Now, I haven't seen a Disney parade in a while, so I'm not sure how different this one was compared to the other Parks, but there were a few things that caught my eye...

Is this a weird-looking Mickey, or what?

Far out "Little Mermaid" themed parade costume #1

Far out "Little Mermaid" themed parade costume #2

After the parade, we walked towards the castle. I have to say that the backdrop of the mountains really made it stand out more than the castles at WDW and Disneyland.

Sleeping Beauty Castle

There are also many beautiful gardens lining the Park. We were informed that this is because the Asian people love to take pictures in gardens -- especially with Disney characters. So they built these gardens with gazebos to allow for many character photo opportunities.

One of the gardens near the castle

Finally, we walked by the "It's a Small World" attraction, which is scheduled to open on May 28 (three days before I go home to California!). All I could think was:  Wow! This attraction is going to be HUGE! How long is the actual ride going to be? Can people deal with hearing that song for more than 10 minutes? 

It's a Small World -- built on a whole lotta land (picture does not do the size justice)

While the rest of the orientation group wanted to either shop or watch the shows, Lailany and I rushed to Space Mountain. It was great! Then we proceeded to take advantage of the fact that there weren't many people in the Park and ride as many attractions as we could. While this Park does not have as many attractions as our other Parks and while it is not as big, I really enjoyed it. It definitely seemed more peaceful and intimate.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

We're In -- Part 2!!!

Registration for this year's Nautica Malibu Triathlon closed out after less than a week. Luckily, Disney's Pirate and Princess made it and will be swimming, biking and running our way to victory on September 14.

Disney's Princess and Pirate (aka Jill and Rene) after the 2007 triathlon

This year, we have added another princess to our relay team -- Tammy!  As it stands right now, Tammy will be swimming, Rene will be biking and I will be running.

Tammy and "friend"!

The best part about this sprint triathlon is that we are working together to raise money for an excellent organization - Childrens Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). Last year, Team Disney raised more than $235,000 for CHLA! We're hoping to raise MORE than that amount this year and keep our #1 ranking in the Entertainment Industry Challenge.

We can do better than this!

As some of you already know, when I joined the Disney Tri Team last year, it changed my life. The team had a tremendous effect on helping me to get through a personally challenging time in my life.  The feeling of accomplishment, not only in becoming a better runner and a stronger biker, but also in raising money for a cause that I fully support and believe in, is phenomenal. And I have found some great friends and inspiring leaders on the team.

If you'd like to support me (and Tammy, Rene, and Team Disney) by making a donation to CHLA, please visit my fundraising web page. Any contribution you make is greatly appreciated and will make a huge difference in the lives of sick children.