Called to Serve

We have loved traveling and being with family for the past two years but we felt the call to serve another mission so here we are in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania for the next year.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Shenzhen and Hong Kong

Shenzhen is a city on mainland China that is just across the border from Hong Kong.  Hong Kong is considered a foreign destination so flights from within China cost much less flying Shenzhen than to Hong Kong.  The Shenzhen airport is very futuristic and from above looks like it could be a giant winged creature. 

The reason we flew to Shenzhen was to visit the China Folk Cultural Village, a park that has 22 villages representing the 56 ethnic minorities that are in China. We were told that it was based on the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii.  It is very similar but with some Disney or extra steroids mixed in.  In the villages ethnic people give short cultural programs and demonstrate crafts from their home areas.  They even have a big theatrical performance in an outdoor amphitheater in the evening. We had a great time there and saw lots of interesting things.

Next to the folk village, along the path under the heart, was Splendid China a big park that contained miniatures of various scenic and historic places in China.  It was nice, but we enjoyed the folk village much more.

From the airport in Shenzhen it was only about a one hour bus ride to our hotel right near the water on the Kowloon side of the city.  It was a 5 minute walk to the Star Ferry in one direction and 5 minutes to the Metro station.  We stayed at the Salisbury YMCA.  The Salisbury is a very nice modern hotel that has been at the same location since 1925.  It was a great place to stay.  This is one of the views of Hong Kong Island from our side of the bay.

On our first day in Hong Kong after settling into the hotel Libby rested while I went exploring.  We had a weeks worth of laundry that needed to be cleaned so with directions from the hotel I found a genuine Chinese laundry several blocks away.  $2.75 per load for wash, dry, and fold; all in three hours.  I found the terminal for the Star Ferry, 25 cents to cross over to Hong Kong Island, a great bargain for a spectacular view of the city.  I also checked out the location of some of the restaurants in our area and investigated the Metro.

The following morning we went to the Temple in Kowloon, a 20 minute ride to the North on the Metro. While there, we visited the Church distribution center to get some things for our Branch primary.

Crowded Metro train

After lunch we went exploring across the bay on Hong Kong Island.  We took the ferry then rode the worlds longest escalator that climbs the hills up the south side of the city in almost 20 long segments

After dinner with our group at Dan Ryan's Chicago Grill we took the tram (actually) a funicular.  to Victoria Peak for a view of the city lights.

You can see Hong Kong in the foreground and Kowloon across the water.

The following morning we went to the Church headquarters building (below) in Hong Kong and had a chance to share teaching ideas with the other BYU China teachers.  The Church has a very nice building that has two or three chapels with all the associated classrooms etc. and offices for the Asia Area Presidency and other Church operations. We spent the afternoon buying a few things and exploring in the City.

Sunday morning we went to a China District conference in a ward chapel that is located on one of the lower floors of the Temple.  We had a wonderful time visiting with many of the other teachers that we had not seen since our training in Provo.  It was a great 4 days. That afternoon we went by bus back across the border to Shenzhen and caught a plane to Guilin to begin our tour of Southwest China.

Hainan Island - China's Hawaii

Hainan Island is an Island in the South China Sea just south of the southeastern coast of China.  It is the southern most part of China and is considered the Hawaii of China.   Three hours earlier we had departed from the cold, freezing weather of Jinan and now had arrived in a wonderful tropical climate.

We were part of a group of BYU China teachers having a little fun prior to going to our 3 day conference in Hong Kong.  Libby and I had skipped a day in Shanghai so we could arrive in Sanya early to connect with Andrilea Ng, a member of our Branch that I home teach.  She is the only member of the Church on the entire Island and I home teach her via Skype.

Andrilea lives near the Sanya River which is quite pretty during the day with fishing boats moored in the center and parks along the shore but it is really impressive at night when they turn on the lights.

For several miles the whole river is a spectacle of color on bridges, shore, trees, and buildings.  We really enjoyed walking along the river at night.  The weather was perfect and the lights were beautiful.

We went to dinner with Andrilea at the BEST restaurant we have eaten at in China.  The Dolphin Sports Bar and Grill was wonderful.  Great western food, English menus, and waiters that spoke excellent English.  Everything we had been searching for for the past 4 months.  What a find!  The next day we went to Monkey Island.  It's not really an island but a peninsula that is a home to over 1,000 macaque monkeys.  It was a beautiful park setting and the monkeys were very friendly and photogenic.

Libby was also in a friendly photogenic mood.

After a buffet lunch at the island we walked to a deserted stretch of beach along the Gulf of Tonkin.  Everyone enjoyed the beach all to ourselves without the distraction of hundreds of other tourists, vendors, etc.  We searched for shells and walked in the surf.

After the beach we returned to Sanya and had another great dinner at our favorite Bar and Grill.  Only this time our fellow Jinan teachers were able to join us.  We ended up eating there all three nights that we were in Sanya.

The following day we visited the Tianya Haijiao Scenic Area, a "romantic and beautiful" scenic spot. Tianya Haijiao literally means "Edges of the heaven, corners of the sea", suggesting an unattainable place.  We have visited many "romantic and beautiful" places while here in China.  It seems to be a favorite expression.


 This beautiful park was built around the site of a famous legend.

There were stone blocks along this beach and many of them had some legend associated with them.  We have noticed that in a civilization that has a recorded history as long as China there are many things that have legends associated with them.  Here is the story:
There is a romantic legend about the two stones carved with "Tianya", "Haijiao". Long ago, two young lovers eloped because their parents disapproved of their marriage. Unfortunately, when they arrived in Hainan, several men employed by their parents overtook them. Facing the sea, they decided to hold each other and jump into the sea. Suddenly, a thunderstorm came and the lightning hit them. The lovers changed into two stones, with the employed men turned into many smaller stones around. Hence the two stones were regarded as symbols of eternal and faithful love. Nowadays, thousands of young couples hold their wedding ceremonies here for their wishes of long-lasting love.

 After our visit to the park we went back to town and visited the main beach that had lots of tourists and shops.  One of them offered fish pedicures that the women could not resist. Such a deal, only $5 for 30 minutes. 

I also got some hiking in when I visited a park located at the top of a hill that overlooked the city.  I could just barely see a large statue of a deer at the top of the hill so I had to go and investigate.  I tried to walk all the way but got lost and had to take a taxi to the park entrance.  Then it was a half hour walk to the top where I found the famous statue with, of course, a legend.  Afterwards I took a bus back to the hotel.

"Luhuitou legend tells us that ‘once upon a time’ a tyrant emperor forced a young Li man to hunt for deer in the Wuzhi Mountains.  On one occasion, this young man, named Ahei, saw a spotted deer chased by a panther. He shot the panther but continued to chase the deer for nine days and nights. After passing 99 hills they arrived at the Coral Cliffs of Sanya. The deer was trapped. As the hunter took aim the deer turned to him and changed into a young woman. The pair fell in love and were married.  With the help of her brothers, the young woman was able to defeat the tyrant and settle with her hunter on the same hill."

Because of the legend this park is also regarded as a very "romantic" place to visit.

So the hunter is on one side of the deer and the young woman is on the other.

Sanya was a great break from the freezing weather in Jinan and a good prelude for the next two and a half weeks of travel ahead of us.  Next stop Shenzen and Hong Kong.