The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
By Miriam Rutzen
Using the opportunity between jobs to pursue her dreams of travel over the course of one year, Miriam Rutzen of Sciota is sharing this series of her thoughts on her travels and stops along the way over six months, sixteen countries, three continents, and "a great deal of jet lag", she says.
"I made a bet with my dad that I would make it to all seven continents by age 27."
Miriam already had ventured to Australia in 2009 and Europe in 2013 leaving her with only the most difficult-Antarctica.
Her first columns were Peru, and Toyko. This week is: HONG HONG, CHINA
By far the most amazing city skyline I have ever seen, skyscrapers towering up into the clouds, standing guard over a winding river filled with ships and ferries, jungle trees woven into the landscape, with the queen's Victoria Peak sitting atop the city in all of its' stateliness.
Welcome to Hong Kong, former British colony and currently Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.
Hong Kong is an incredible mix of languages, cultures, people, trade, and architecture.
Composed of three sections, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, and New Territories, as well as numerous islands, Hong Kong is on the coast of southeastern China surrounded on three sides by the South China Sea.
The official languages are English and Chinese and the country continues to be influenced a great deal by Western culture.
With my 48 hours in the city, it was not culture shock as much as climate shock that manipulated my best-laid intentions.
Arriving from Tokyo that morning, I took a taxi for about an hour to the New Territories, set down my backpack and tote bag, packed my little day hiking bag with necessary essentials including Flat Stanley and "The Quill" and set out on an adventure. Hours and hours later I returned, completely soaked through with sweat-through my bag, through my papers, and definitely through all of my clothes. The joys of true humidity in a subtropical region.
Let's go over a little background on my two "traveling companions", Flat Stanley and "The Quill". While visiting West Central last spring and discussing my year of travel itinerary sketch, a teacher mentioned I should take someone's Flat Stanley along.
Flat Stanley is a fictional character created by author Jeff Brown in 1964.
Stanley Lambchop is a young boy flattened to post mail size when a bulletin board on the wall above his bed falls on him.
His family then ships him off on various adventures while visiting friends and family members.
Over the years, I have received a few Flat Stanley's, both in Boston during college and in Colorado while working with the University of Colorado women's basketball team. Bringing a West Central Elementary Flat Stanley along on my adventures seemed like a wonderful idea and you will find him scattered through my photos online.
And of course, with "The Quill's" section on "Take the Quill Along" I had to bring it for those classic tourist photos!
Connection: "I think I might know someone who knows someone who lives there:"
While a little risky, many of my ideas of where to go and who to visit started out with that sentence.
My initial connection to China was to visit a friend of mine who served as a missionary in the mountains of western China.
Unfortunately, by the time the schedule worked for me to make the trip out there, she was back stateside.
But, she informed me I could still visit some of her acquaintances in Hong Kong and jump through minimal hoops (in contrast to visiting mainland China) to do so.
A few emails later, I had a place to stay in the New Territories-in a surprisingly familiar looking suburban neighborhood. My new friends served as missionaries in Hong Kong, ministering to the community through sports evangelism and English language lessons for children. Incredibly gracious hosts and parents to four, now grown adults, they sent me off with helpful directions, a pat on the back, and a "be smart!" friendly word of advice.
Favorites: Another of my college teammates has been a frequent visitor to Hong Kong and had numerous suggestions about everything from food to must see sites.
Always game for adventure, and encouraged by the visible Western influence that meant exploring on my own would be within reasonable parameters, I took her advice to hike up Victoria Peak (elevation 1,818 feet) rather than take the tram up the mountainside. I mentioned climate.
Without cell service or wifi while climbing thousands of stairs up a mountainside, I could not exactly look up the exact temperature or heat index, but I can tell you it was HOT and HUMID, while ironically well shaded with a light breeze, so on I trudged.
Most amusing moment?
The fact that the restaurant at the top of The Peak shopping center is Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Seriously? The view from the top of Victoria Peak was well worth it, although one of my top ten favorite photos came from the much less strenuous ferry ride across Victoria Harbour with the night skyline in the background. I have never seen so many skyscrapers or so many brightly colored buildings in my life.
Challenges: All of my travel between one country to the next was on my own, but I always had at least some form of connection to the person or family meeting me on the other end.
Due to the nature of my travel in all of its independence and flexibility, I really enjoyed all of the exploring and am very thankful that I never really felt scared or threatened.
There were times where I was dangerously tired and needed to stay home rather than venture out, and I typically made that distinction wisely.
My second day in Hong Kong proved one of those days. It was even hotter than the day before, incredibly humid, and I awoke at about 9:00am in an air-conditioned room not very keen on the thought of leaving.
My hosts were in the middle of their day-to-day lives, and while they gladly put me up for two nights, they had other responsibilities to attend to which left me to explore, or not explore, on my own.
Do I regret not taking advantage of my second day in Hong Kong to explore? No, not really, because instead I recuperated and eventually joined the English class taking place downstairs with 3-5 year olds where we drew pictures of our families and sounded out English words.
Look up pictures of the Hong Kong skyline. It is absolutely incredible. The culture has a rich history and the city is easy to navigate by Westernized tourist standards. In any of these locations I write about, I never spent "enough" time, but if you ever have the chance, even a quick visit to Hong Kong is well worth the trip.
Photos of my travels can be found on Facebook or Instagram: mrutzen25 and more in depth stories are chronicled at www.miriamrutzen.blogspot.com.