Climbing Hong Kong

Today is the first day of Chinese New Year. Lots of businesses are closed, but not everything. We woke up late to the sound of karaoke downstairs. No firecrackers here, apparently they are illegal. It’s actually weird that I still haven’t heard any, because they are ubiquitous in San Francisco’s Chinatown during this time.

We went out to explore and ended up at the escalator that they built in the Central district for commuters who live up the hill, in the “midlevels”. Most of the time the escalator runs up, except for a few hours during the morning commute. James rode it all the way up…and I climbed the stairs that run next to it! Awesome way to get some exercise in.

There were plenty of people out – families walking around, some looking happy and some looking like they’d already had enough family time. More restaurants than we expected were open and at lunchtime most were quite busy. We had our favorite cheap meal – kebabs! Things are very expensive here; we paid over $20 in U.S. dollars for two pints of beer in a pub the other night. But kebabs were only HK $40-50 (about US $5-6).

I took a ton of photos as we progressed up the hill. This city is so vertical. In some ways it reminds me of San Francisco – especially all these hills. But everything in Hong Kong is bigger, taller, more. Can you imagine if they built an escalator like this up Nob Hill or Russian Hill?

Sanxiantai Taiwan: More than a walking bridge

We made our way to Sanxiantai with very low expectations, believing we would find a very photogenic bridge to a small island, overcrowded with tourists. It’s true, that is all there, but the island holds an amazing hike with truly breath taking views and a unique / dramatically changing landscape. Also, thanks to the fact we went on a weekday, and the weather was overcast and windy, the abundant tourist issue took care of itself the further we trekked.

First up the bridge and beach, mainland side:

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Now, onto the island proper. The walk starts with a raised wood path. At the onset, the surrounding vegetation is well above even my head, but this gives way to misty views of the mainland and sea:

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Once, past this path, it really gets impressive. The original path washed out, and visitors are not really informed that you can scrabble on, but not stopped either. You move through a rocky lunar stretch and then up to an abandoned lighthouse. Views abound.

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There are two paths around the center of the island, so a few more photo ops greeted us on the return trek out.

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We’re on the road!

So, we all but abandoned this blog over the past several months. A lot has changed in that time…but the good news is that we are finally traveling!

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Our plans are different than they once were, but for now we are in Taiwan. We left on January 27 so we’ve been gone almost a week now. We are here for 3 weeks total, then we head to Hong Kong for 9 days (during Chinese/Lunar New Year), and then Japan for almost a month. After that, James will be returning to the Bay Area for work, and Katie will continue traveling for several months.

We have a lot of great pictures and stories already from Taiwan, so stay tuned. We just got the mobile app – we are traveling with iPhones and an iPad only – so we hope to use this space to actually document our travels.

New Years in Yelapa

Standing on the beach approaching something that we will call dry, a single firework jets into the air. It is midnight 2014. The firework was just set off by one of the hotel staff of the Lagunita, who moments before had been bored out of his mind. This was not the New Year’s party anyone assembled had expected at the beginning of the night, but in that moment, it was as good as anyone could have hoped for.

Yelapa: Fireworks

This moment marks the beginning of the year, and for narrative purposes, it seemed a very good place to start this Blog. In starting this thing there is a lot we want to do and a lot we want to share. There is this big looming thing in the future*, that we want to have a forum to talk about. Some place to make the before, during, and after. But there is also a lot of more to life then that thing and the prep to get us there. I really want to create a full picture of this experience for myself and for anyone reading this, and how we approach talking about it in context matters.

Which brings us back to the hotel at midnight and fireworks. All told, five were lit and three were wow worthy, if only for the proximity to my head. It had been raining an hour before, and for 2 days before that. We had been wet and trapped in our jungle cabana for much of that time, but it was not cold, and we had plenty to read, so I was trying very hard not to hold that against the weather. Double fortunately, someone had left a copy of Neil Gaiman’s most recent book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, on the take-one-leave-one shelf at our place. It was a fine hard bound edition that I can only guess was abandoned do to the utter destruction of its pristine edges by the relentless humidity of coastal Mexico. Even at my pace, given nothing else to do, it was a only day’s read, and got me through a the roughest patches of rain.

January 31st had brought with it a reprieve from the downpour, and we tried to take full advantage, ceviche on the beach, taking more time in our explorations of the village yielded a waterfall, and tacos! The new year was to be filled with tacos and beer!**

At the end of our final meal at the last food stop of the night, we discovered that the reprieve was over and the rain was coming down. Torn between waiting it out and getting to our side of the cove for midnight we left the warm and welcoming embrace of Abuela’s Taqueria and headed into the downpour. When traveling between town and the beach bars butted against the jungle where our casa is nestled, there are two options. A river runs through the middle of the cove that is Yelapa, and you can either ford it close to its mouth near the beach, or hike an extra mile or so into the jungle to a cement bridge and back out to the beach. We opted for the bridge, and were rewarded at the end of the drenching 30+ minute trek with the rain ceasing the second we reemerged on the beach.

Looking at the scene that greeted us, I was a little disappointed that all the bars were closed, save the Lagunita, and for that matter, the denizens of the Lagunita must have been a little disappointed that so few had decided to bring in the New Year there. The decorations were set, every table had noise makers and party hats, the music was playing, and counting us, there were under 25 people including at least 10 staff.

Yelapa: Lagunita

Still, we sat and got our Pacificos and drank and waited for midnight. I was trying really hard to be positive about all this (and failing) until one of the bar backs came to me with a huge smile and excitement on her voice and simply said, “fireworks” and pointed to the beach. We marched down with the few others on this side of the bay and looked out to the water. I had imagined that the blasts would come from one or two of the boats a little ways off shore, when bang! It’s Midnight, and the guys from the bar, standing five feet from me, are lighting fireworks off the beach. The circular plumes are so close you can feel the heat, and everyone shrieks with delight.

Yelapa: New Years

It’s 2014. I am standing on a beach with fireworks over head. I am with Katie. I am full of tacos and beer and happy for the walk to get us home and that we have another few days of no internet and no alarms, and reading, and swimming, and sex, and eating, and hiking, and sleep.

I don’t know exactly what this blog is going to be about, or that anyone will be all that interested, but hope that it is good and that they will be.

Until next time!

* In case you skipped the about us page, Katie and are now one year out from one year of travel.

** I am not superstitious in general, but this was very important to me. On December 31st, 2012, having imbibed a little more than was necessary, I found myself arguing the merits of the designated hitter in American League Baseball, an argument everyone knows is un-winnable, you will never change anyone’s mind, ever. Still, it happened, and a topic I rarely ever brought up, found its way into my life over and over again in 2013. Coincidence? Probably, but if not, I much rather a year filled with beer and tacos to one arguing one of the lest interesting things you can argue about in baseball.