Honeymoon trip to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Japan 1 2 3 4 5 6

Trip Date: May 9th - May 21st, 2013
Published: November 26th, 2014

It wasn't long after wrapping up our Cartagena wedding that we had to start thinkingabout the honeymoon. We decided on Asia for two reasons. First, Sandra lived in Shanghai while studying Mandarin and wanted to introduce me to that part of the world. Secondly, I also found Asia quite mesmerizing, especially the intriguingly strange geography. I was especially interested in southern China and Vietnam, with the latter heavily ingrained in American history, but at the same time still mainly undiscovered by western tourists.

Our first cut at the trip had us starting in Shanghai and travelling by train (I love train travel, and if you do too, check out seat61.com) to the Yuan province of China, before crossing over to Vietnam. This trip would cover a good portion of the continent, and also eat up much more time off than either of us could afford to take. So instead, we decided on a shortened version focusing on Vietnam with a quick hop to Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat. Luckily, we were able to add to the mix a free 24 hour layover in Hong Kong, and later on, an 8 hour layover in Narita (Tokyo).

Map of our trip. The red segments were on ground - either by train or by bus

May 9th-11th, 2013

We left Washington, D.C., the morning of May 9th on a United flight to San Francisco. Five hours later, we spent few hours sipping drinks in the SFO United Lounge, thanks to the free United Club passes that came with my United MileagePlus Explorer credit card. Shortly after lunch, it was time to board the trans-pacific jet to Hong Kong. We flew on a pretty old 747. The flight went smoothly until about 7 hours into the 14 hour journey when we started hitting turbulence. The turbulence wasn't particularly bad, except for one big drop that resulted in the liquid in Sandra's cup making a parabolic arc and ending up on my head. The turbulence also managed to dislodge some panel above the cabin, near our seat. The panel then started making loud and disconcerting banging noises for the rest of the flight. But we landed fine. The most amazing thing about the entire flight was that we left D.C. at 6 in the morning and landed in Hong Kong at 6 in the afternoon, however it was now one day later. The whole trip also took around 23 hours - 23 hours during which the sun never set! This was the longest daytime I have ever experienced!

We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong for free, thanks to the sign up bonus from the Hyatt credit card from Chase (thanks to Trevor from Tagging Miles for introducing us to the world of credit card sign up bonus travel). The layover lasted only 24 hours, but it was quite enough to give me the taste for this wonderful city. For one, I did not realize beforehand just how mountainous Hong Kong was. As we found out the next day, it's surprisingly easy to escape the bustle of the city life and find oneself overlooking the town from a serene setting on a mountain top. Hong Kong really has a lot to offer, and I highly recommend for anyone reading this to make a stop there. The check in at the hotel was impressive, with the receptionist taking us to our room and giving us a tour of the hotel on the way. This level of customer service was common place through out our entire trip, as you will see. After dropping of our bags, we decided to start the trip in style, by having dinner in the hotel's restaurant. The bill for the multi-course meal easily made up for the money saved by not paying for the room, but oh well. Next we went for a stroll in the near-by Wan Chai district full of British pubs and expats. This section also borders the red light district, which was an interesting thing to see coming from the United States where that sort of stuff is outlawed. The next morning we took a ride to The Peak (Victoria Peak). At over 1800 feet, this is the tallest mountain on the island, and offers spectacular views of the city. We got to the top early before the crowds started rolling in, and we had the mountain mainly to ourselves. On the way down, we passed through the Aviary in the city park and then took a ferry across the Victoria Harbor. On the other side we managed to spot the large rubber duck making its way around the world. We then spent the rest of our time walking through the strangely intriguing Kowloon.

Dinner in Hong Kong Grand Hyatt
Hong Kong at night
Exploring Wan Chai
View from our hotel room and on a tram to Victoria Peak (The Peak)
View from The Peak
Later we stopped in Hong Kong Park aviary
We crossed the rest of the park and headed towards Central pier where we took a ferry across the Victoria Harbor
Rubber duckie
We spent the rest of the morning walking around Kowloon. I found this part of Hong Kong to be a strange juxtoposition of new and old. For instance, there were 7-11 stores everywhere, but instead of selling Slurpies, nachos, and hot dogs, they were crammed with ramen noodles, and except for the name, had nothing to do with their US counterpart. I also found it interesting that most of scaffolding, and not just the one near the ground, was made of bamboo.
But what was probably the most surprising was just how quickly you can pass from the world of the glitzy boutiques to a much different shadow world. Looking for a shortcut, we managed to pass through a store, back exit of which led into an underground market full of stalls none more bizarre than the full-service butcher shop with hanging pigs.
For lunch we stopped by for dim sum
We then headed back to our hotel, where we picked up our backpacks and took a taxi to Central. From there, we hopped on the train to the airport.
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