Monday, July 22, 2013

China Day Fifteen - Wrapping Up and Heading to Hong Kong

Our last day in Guangzhou. We enjoyed one final wonderful breakfast at the Garden and then set out for a bit of exploring on our own again. Back to the subway this time we headed off in search of one of the famous Buddhist temples in Guangzhou. I had a piano teacher for many years in Brandon who was a Buddhist - Mrs. Burnham. She and her husband used to house visiting monks at their home but I had never been inside one of their temples. This was definitely another native experience - we were becoming oddly accustomed to them by now. The only non-Asians on the subway and again wandering down this street towards the temple. It was clear we were headed in the right direction because every shop had incense and flowers and other things to be presented as sacrifices at the temple.

We ended up at the Guangxiao Temple, the oldest temple in the city, dating back to the 1600s. It is an active temple and it was fairly busy the morning we were there. We were hesitant at first about taking pictures but soon realized that no one seemed to care we were there so we took our photos as inconspicuously as possible. We had two interesting encounters while we were there - by the sleeping Buddha an old woman tapped me on the arm as I was pushing Davis in the stroller and gave us a huge smile and a big thumbs up. The second was in the main temple by the three large statues. One of the monks walking up towards the kneeler rail turned to approach me and touched Davis in the arm and spoke to him. Davis answered him back and then the man smiled and then Davis waved bye-bye without any prompting.

After we finished up our tour we headed back to the subway. 
Sometimes it took a little creativity to get in and out of the station with the stroller.

We hopped on the subway again and headed to a large wholesale shopping plaza. We had heard tales of a large Lego store here. Alas we were unable to find the particular store mentioned - this place covered an entire city block and some sections were 7 stories tall while others were 20 stories tall. We looked around for almost 45 minutes without success until we found a small stall with some Lego kits.

This young lady graciously gave us Ferrero Rocher candy as we poured over all the Lego sets she had. In the US this line is called Lego Ninjago and has its own cartoon TV show. Here it was called Lego Ninja. Granddaddy and Grandmommy bought both boys a set as their special souvenir from China.

Davis commandeered Wesley's set to hold and promptly fell asleep with it. 

We headed back for one last wonderful lunch at Paddy Field and then back to the hotel to collect our belongings. This is the view as you walked into the side entrance of the Garden through their office tower. This is the Japanese consulate and behind the barrier were two members of the Japanese military at full attention flanking the door.

Our guide Helen picked us up at 2:30pm downstairs in the lobby and we were loaded into a shuttle bus to head for the Guangzhou East Train Station. On the way we dropped Helen off at the Consulate so she could pick up Davis' passport with visa and the brown packet of paperwork for immigration. We went on and she met us later at the train station. And the classy Garden Hotel sent along one of the bellboys to help us get through the train station with all of our luggage.

A couple of views from the drive - this beautiful fountain and one of our all-time favorite places, IKEA! 

Our train left 30 minutes late from the station and the journey took 3 hours instead of 2.5, so it was pretty late by the time our train stopped in Hong Kong. Then of course we had to go through security with our bags and immigration to be allowed to enter Hong Kong. While the British returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, it operates as a special administrative region with an agreement that nothing be done to change the government for 50 years. In the Hung Hom train station, we grabbed dinner at McDonalds and then found a place to exchange our cash into Hong Kong dollars. We navigated the machines to purchase metro tokens and took off on the subway towards our hotel. Hong Kong has lots of islands but three main developed areas - the mainland piece is Kowloon, then there is Hong Kong island and finally there is Lantau Island. Our hotel was on Lantau near the Hong Kong airport.

We got off at the Tung Chung station. There was a beautiful sculpture there and also a neat sign advertising Monsters University - Hong Kong Disneyland was just one subway stop away.

The metro station and our hotel, the Novotel City Gate, were both attached to a large outlet mall named CityGate that is relatively new. So we walked through the subway station and through the mall with all of our luggage. We looked like quite a caravan! We took an escalator from the mall, down into the hotel lobby. I stood in line to check in, only to be told when I finally got to the front that we were premier guests and had a separate check in area upstairs on floor 21. The bellboy whisked away our luggage and we got led to the elevator. On the 21st floor we hung out in the Premier Lounge while checking in and they provided free drinks to the adults and children.

So how did we end up on the Premier Floor? I booked our rooms directly with the hotel online and elected a room rate that included the morning breakfast. Because of restrictions on the number of people per room, we needed two rooms for Daryl and I and the boys. I asked for them to be adjoining. The hotel ended up calling me to say that they were upgrading us to a different rate at no charge in order to get the adjoining rooms. And then as a bonus, when we got there so late all the other regular rooms were full so Grandmommy and Granddaddy ended up with a free upgrade to a suite!

Turning on the lights was an adventure - just like in London. You must leave you key in for the lights and the AC to work. Very energy efficient.

Room #1 for Daryl and I.

Lots of lights outside on buildings but we had no idea of the real view until the morning.

The boys' room. Parker and Wesley were overjoyed to be so grownup. 

Needless to say, we crashed out fast and hard from our busy day of travel.

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