FU TAI, HONG KONG, SAR, China – Hot Pot is a traditional Chinese meal. It consists of a large pot of boiling soup broth. There is usually one pot of spicy soup and one that is mild. Once the soup is boiling, raw thinly sliced meat, raw seafood, dumplings and vegetables are placed in the soup. The soup is brought back to a boil and the food quickly cooks. Once the food is cooked it is ready to be enjoyed with various dipping sauces. This meal is very similar to Shabu Shabu in Japan. Being a college student, especially one studying abroad, a meal like hot pot is ideal because it is usually all you can eat for a set price. In the case of this particular restaurant it was $98 HKD (approximately $12.25 USD) all you can eat and drink (beer included) for two hours. Not a bad deal.
FU TAI, HONG KONG, SAR, China – Hong Kong is known for a variety of things including its tourist sites, many festivals, and club scene. However, one of Hong Kong’s best reputations is for its food. There is a variety of different styles of food in Hong Kong. Soho, located off of the Central MTR stop in Hong Kong, is full of various restaurants and bars serving food from all over the world. There is of course Dim Sum that is also readily available.
However, some of the best food comes out late at night. Starting around 9PM people will open up small cooking stations and begin to serving homemade food or street food. This food is unbelievable and for a very cheap price you can get a lot. These “street cooks” will make anything from noodles to grilled meets or even soup and dumplings.
Another type of food is the Hong Kong style Pancake. Unlike an American style pancake which is flat. A Hong Kong pancake is make up of gooey bubbles made from a sweet egg based batter. If cooked correctly (and not burned), these pancakes almost melt in your mouth. They are also make for a great snack or for desert. These are found at little shops that line very active streets.
MR. WONG’S, YAU MEI TAI, Hong Kong, SAR, China – Mr. Wongs, located a short walk from exit A2 of the Yau Mei Tai MTR has become a favorite place for out group to dine at. We have decided to frequent this less than glamorous establishment on Thursdays before making our way to LKF. The reason is it is cheap. For $50 HKD (approximately $6.25 USD) we get a plentiful helping of food. In fact, it is all you can eat and drink (beer included) with no time limit. Now I will be honest this place looks like a sketchy shack, but Mr. Wong caters toward international students. The food is sub-par to average at best and the menus is always the same. He serves Pearl River Delta Beer from China and if he likes your group he will occasionally throw in a bottle of spirits (either vodka or whiskey). However, for the price and the ability to have a fun meal with a friend, you can’t beat it.
TEMPLE STREET NIGHT MARKET, MONG KOK, Hong Kong, SAR, China – The first week of classes are over, so its time to experience true Hong Kong culture, by touring around with a local. Our first stop is the Temple Street Market. As its name would suggest, the night market comes out at night. The streets are lined with local restaurants selling unique Hong Kong style food and hawking various goods. Some unique gifts can be found here such as a first edition little red book, once owned by Mao Zedong’s followers.
However, aside from the hawkers, our destination was a small restaurant that sells snake soup, a delicacy in Hong Kong. It is also only available during the winter. At first thought this dish may sound disgusting, however, it was delicious. It taste like chicken.
Monday June 14, 2010
KAMAKURA, Japan – Today began with a reunion of sorts. Everyone who had been away on a home stay had returned and met back up with the rest of the international students at the hotel. Everyone tried to quickly share his or her individual experiences and eat the usual egg breakfast before boarding the bus to Kamakura.
Today’s trip was to two different destinations. Our first trip is to Kamakura. Kamakura is located to the southwest of Tokyo about a two-hour drive and home to the second largest Buddha statue in Japan. Technos students in the tourism department led the entire trip.
The trip was prolonged by the pouring rain, which marked the beginning of the rainy season. The drive came to an end and we exited the bus and walked down the flooded street side toward Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū, a Shinto shrine. A large red arch graces the entrance to the shrine. An elongated walkway leads to an arched bridge that crosses over a small river. Today the arched bridge was closed, but there was still a walkway that surrounded the bridge. We walked down the walkway reaching a temple/shrine wash station. We washed our hands then continued on our way. Not soon after the wash station we were faced with a steep set of stairs that led up to the shrine. To the left of the stairs there were stacks of offerings of sake and to the right there were a few shops.
We walked up the steps and reached the shrine. Inside the shrine people made offerings of coins and bowed and clapped as a sign of respect. We exited the shrine and walked over to some nearby shops where everyone bought their fortunes. We then continued walking the grounds and found a smaller shrine up a small set of stairs. We checked out the shrine then headed back to the bus. Once everyone was aboard the bus it was off to lunch.
We drove through the quiet streets of Kamakura and stopped outside of small shop. Everyone entered the shop, which sold a variety of goods made in Kamakura. Once inside everyone made his or her way up to the second floor, which was where lunch was to be served.
Lunch was a lightly fried fish, served with sashimi and pickled salads. The fish was served on the body again and had a slight lemon flavor to it. Once lunch was finished we went back down to the shop. Downstairs I purchased a hand carved wooden plate, which is a specialty found only in Kamakura. The wood used in these plates is allowed to reach its driest point before it is carved. As such the finished plate is extremely lite.
We crossed the street and entered another shrine. This shrine housed the second largest stature of the Buddha in Japan. The statue is made of copper just like the statue of liberty. We walked around the statue then eventually went inside. There was short spiral staircase that led to a base within the statue to stand. The statue is completely hollow, with two windows in the back for ventilation.
When our tour of the statue was finished we boarded the bus again for Yokohama. Yokohama is also known as China Town.
After an hours ride we reached China Town. China Town was designated by a large blue Chinese archway that opens up to a complex of streets lined with shops and vendors. Most of the shops sell food, such as dumplings and sesame balls. The dumplings that they sold were the largest I had ever seen; they were round in shape and about four inches wide. My dumpling was filled with a meat mixture. However, the fillings varied from being filled with sweet bean paste, to vegetables, or meat. The rain picked up, which made it hard to enjoy Yokohama. We walked up and down the street of Yokohama looking for a snack that is unique to Yokohama. It looks like a fried spring roll filled with tapioca. The tourism students told us of the snack, however, no one at any of the shops had any idea what we were talking about. Our hour of exploring was over and we boarded the bus again returning to Tokyo.
When we arrived back at the hotel, a bunch of us gathered and traveled to Shibuya to go clubbing with the Technos students. When we arrived n Shibuya we all went to a small Italian restaurant for dinner. After we walked to Club Camelot. However, a bunch of us didn’t feel like going into it and decided to just walk around. As it turns out the people who went to the club didn’t do to much because everyone was busy watching Japan in their first world cup game.
I chose to not go into the club and instead walked around Shibuya. I visited a tower records and wandered around for a while. After about an hour of walking we walked back and caught the train to the hotel.
Saturday June 5, 2010 – Sunday June 6, 2010
HIGASHI FUCHU, Tokyo, Japan – I awoke in the early morning to catch my flight to Tokyo, traveling over fifteen hours. The first leg was a hop from Boston to Newark and the second was a 13 hour 55 minute flight from Newark to Tokyo direct. We flew from the night’s encompassing darkness in constant sunlight losing a full day without notice. When I was first selected to attend Technos International Week 2010, the idea of visiting a country such as Japan seemed to be impossible for me at this point in my life and what I might experience was a complete mystery to me. Sure, I had heard stories and seen photographs and had studied some of the history of Japan in my Foundations of Asian Civilizations course in the fall. Yet, not even anything that I learned or witnessed could have prepared me for the life altering experience that being a participant in Technos International Week 2010 would afford me. Even upon our arrival at Narita International Airport after the culmination of a fourteen-hour flight and weeks of planning and packing, and it was hard to believe that I was in fact halfway around the world, finally in Japan.
The plane touched down in dry sweltering heat of Tokyo at Narita Airport. People milled about, hustling to and fro, in massive crowds making their way through customs. For the second time in my life I was the minority and I stood out plain as day. While I felt different, I was not afraid. After clearing customs and claiming our baggage we made our way into the main hallway of Terminal One. Here the smiling and cheering faces of Technos students wearing bright orange shirts greeted us. They jumped up and down cheering for us.
We hand over our bags to the Technos students who organize and collect them while we wait to board the bus. I exchange my money for the Japanese Yen and prepare myself for what I am told is to be a rather expensive trip. While I stand around waiting, I am tapped on the shoulder by a man dressed in a suit, he introduces himself as Sho our travel agent. He has organized most of our trips outside of Tokyo. He is twenty-five and works at conversing with me in English.
“What is your name?” he asks me
“Ah Colin, how do you like Japan”
I found this question particularly hard to answer after having only been in the country for a few minutes. All I had seen of Japan was the airport, from which it is hard to gauge anything about a country. I tell him that I like what I see and that I am eager to see more. Our conversation jumps around.
“Do you like to shop?” he asks
“Yes” I say
When he is unable to figure out a word, he thinks, and you can see his mind racing as his eyes dart back and forth and as he gestures with his hands to try and describe what he is thinking. He tries to ask me about swords by motioning with his hands as if unsheathing a sword. This intrigues me because it would be great if I could purchase a samurai sword.
After all of the schools from the first group of arrive we are ready to leave, we head out of the airport and board our bus to the hotel. Vienna, the other delegate from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Kaad and Astrid from Bates College in Maine, Annie and Morgan from McKendree University in Illinois, and Emily and Kylie from Illinois Wesleyan University join me. Once on the bus we are introduced to the leader of our trip, Mitsunari. Mitsunari was our bridge to the Japanese language and culture. He had studied in the United States and was fluent in English as well as Japanese.
After about an hours ride from Narita Airport we reach Tokyo, yet we still have an hour to go until reach our hotel. Tokyo is bigger than I would have ever imagined. Metropolitan Tokyo is home to 36 million people in a land mass smaller than metropolitan New York which is home to 19 million people.
We finally reach our hotel, the Marroad Inn and are given our keys for our rooms. Upon first opening the door to room 917 I am immediately struck by how small everything is. The room had two single beds squeezed into a space that is about ten feet by ten feet. The bathroom had a shower, a sink, and toilet in an area that was about four feet by four feet.
Once I was settled in it was time for dinner. It is funny to think that our first meal in Japan was actually going to be Chinese food. Dinner was in the dining room off of the lobby. It is here that I meet some more of the other international students and get to know those I have already met. I am introduced to Phil, Michelle, Sebastian, and Claire from Pembroke College at Oxford University. They had arrived earlier that morning and had already had a full day in Japan. As we finish dinner the second group of students arrives including Lucas and Amanda from Hope College, Joe and Katyann from SUNY Purchase College, Meagan, Bianca, Mariaa, and Natalie from Auckland University of Technology from New Zealand (AUT), Ross and Laura from Carlton College, Catherine and Feliz from Trinity College, as well as Shun-liang and Lee from the China Institute of Technology. My roommate for the trip is Lucas from Hope College. I leave him the key to move into the room and I meet up with a few other people to go out and explore the area in which we are staying, Higashi Fuchu.
Higashi Fuchu has several Seven-Eleven convenience stores, a Pachinko Arcade (a gambling arcade), a few restaurants and store that sold everything (this was a Walmart meets Building 19, Costco and Market Basket and then some) store, as well as a few car dealerships. What was most amazing was the cleanliness of the city. There was no garbage or graffiti anywhere. This part of the city was also very quiet, which was not what I was expecting from Tokyo, Japan. We finish our walk and return to the hotel. I turn in for the night after an extremely long day.