Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hong Kong Trip: Day 5

On our last full day in Hong Kong, I didn't do any book research. (Gasp!) Well, not anything that I made notes about anyway. But since there's a lot of hiking in one of my books, it was good to refresh my memory about the sights and sounds of Hong Kong trails.

My dad took Gabe and me on a hike starting at Monkey Mountain (appropriately named, you'll see why soon) that ended at the Upper Shing Mun Reservoir. The rain had cleared and we had blue skies. Best of all, my friend Robyn and her son, Owen, were able to join us. 

That fuzzy mountain in the distance is Hong Kong Island. The ICC building on Kowloon Peninsula is the tall building visible.

I love Hong Kong because you can be hiking along, feeling like you're in the middle of nowhere, come to a certain point on a trail, and see THIS. These are apartment buildings, both public and private. This is how most of Hong Kong's population of 7 million people lives in a space of 426 sq. miles--literally on top of each other. And there's still room for beautiful green hills and hiking trails!

A bunker built by the British in WWII. A sign nearby warned us that it was a "desolate trench." The boys were appropriately cautious.

This is why Monkey Mountain is so aptly named. Macaques are everywhere! And they want to eat your food, so don't show them if you have any.

So fun to see my good friend, Robyn! She treated us to one last dim sum breakfast. Yum, yum!

These next pictures were taken on our last evening with my parents. We went out for one more Chinese meal. So delicious and such good company.

Honestly, I don't think this trip could have gone any better. I feel blessed upon blessed!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hong Kong Trip: Day 4

On the fourth day of Hong Kong my parents gave to me....
a trip to the Museum of History!

I can't post too many of the photos because they're so dark (I wasn't allowed to use a flash), but here are a few from our wonderful at the Hong Kong Museum of History. 

Visiting the museum helped me narrow down the time period and setting for my Cantonese Opera book. There was also a permanent exhibit here about a specific kind of Cantonese opera called Chinese Opera for the Gods, a ritual performed in villages around Hong Kong to commemorate a god's birthday and bless a village. It's a tradition still practiced today, though not as common as it used to be.

Funnily enough, the fishing village we visited on Lantau on day three, Tai O, hosts an annual opera performance of this type. We'd seen signs advertising it when we were on the island.

Gabe in a traditional fishing boat.

A hawker's stall of children's toys outside the opera house

The temporary opera structure for Chinese Opera for the Gods

A scene from 1913 Hong Kong water front (I think that's the right year - need to check my notes!)

A recreation of a building on Hong Kong island in the late 1800's/early 1900's
A popular way to travel around Hong Kong Island -- an old-fashioned tram

My parents sharing a laugh on the MTR train on the way home. How I love them!
If you ever visit Hong Kong and are curious about Hong Kong history, you'll have to visit this museum. The exhibits were amazing. The street scene from early Hong Kong was especially stunning. You can walk into tea shops and pawn shops, see the bulletins posted on the brick walls ... an incredible, hands-on experience.

That evening I was able to see one of my best friends from middle school and early high school at King George V School, Hersha. We hadn't seen each other in twenty years! She and her lovely husband treated us to a delicious meal.

Friends reunited

Gabe was a little worn out after his busy day! He has been a trooper through this trip, following Mom around on all her research trips. This is only the second time he's fallen asleep at a restaurant late at night.

Overall, another wonderful day in my amazing hometown. Gabe and I miss everyone back home, but we're not ready to leave yet! We want our American family to fly here instead of us flying back over there. I wish!

Hong Kong Trip: Day 3

What a fabulous time we're having!

I met my friend Jacqueline (@Lantaumama) through Twitter and our writerly friend Susan Blumberg-Kason. She lives on South Lantau and when she found out I was coming to Hong Kong, she offered to drive us around the island. I'd asked her questions before on Twitter about how South Lantau feels in a typhoon, so she knew one of my books was set there. We didn't experience a typhoon on our trip (thankfully), but we did get a black rain storm warning, which is actually more appropriate for the book. Serendipity!  Jacqueline braved a very wet day to take us around and was an amazing, knowledgeable tour guide. I learned so much about the area and culture and it was wonderful to meet her in person.

Here we are on the bridge in the Lantau fishing village, Tai O.

An original shop-house still in use (shop downstairs, house upstairs), Tai O

Houses on stilts in Tai O, with waterfall behind

Village houses, South Lantau Island

Tumble-down residence, licensed property, in a South Lantau village

Water buffalo field

We took the ferry back from Lantau to Central. You can see the IFC Building with its top in the clouds.

Standing below the IFC building
A huge thank you to Jacqueline. We had a magical third day on South Lantau!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hong Kong Trip: Day 2

I'm behind a day! I know! But that's because we spend all day out and about Hong Kong. When I get back to my sister's flat, I'm too exhausted to blog! After driving a minivan in the U.S. for five years, I'm not used to walking so much.

We are having a fabulous time and it's so much fun to gather information and experiences for my books. On our second day, we went on a walk/hike into the hills behind my sister's flat in the pouring rain. One of things I love most about Hong Kong is the nature and all the paths through the hills. It's warm and humid here, so the rain isn't uncomfortable. But when it rains, it pours! I'm really enjoying the rain, though, because one of the books I'm in the process of writing, set in Hong Kong, has a lot of rain in it. In fact, the rain is so important, it's practically a character. So, as ironic as it seems, the weather couldn't have worked out better!

An abandoned house in a village behind my sister's flat.

The road turned into a river as we walked.

A stream running past a village house.

I spent a lot of time on Day 2 at the Heritage Museum in Shatin. They have a permanent Cantonese opera exhibit there. Like I mentioned in my last post, I'm hoping to write a historical novel about a child adopted by an opera troupe. I took a billion pictures at the museum, but here are a few:

Replica of the Foshan theatre, built in 1658.

Traditional opera dressing table

What a dressing room would have looked like


I mentioned that it rained, right?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hong Kong Trip: Day 1

I'm in Hong Kong at the moment, visiting my parents and my sister and conducting research for several novels-in-the-works. 

Here are a few pictures from my adventures today: 

The view out my bedroom window. Those are traditional Chinese graves, a detail in one of my books.

Bougainvillaea overflowing. I love how Hong Kong is such a mix of city and gorgeous nature.

Closed up snack shop. I want to remember what this gate looks like, because one of my minor characters owns a shop like this.

One of the main reasons I'm here: researching Cantonese opera!

I forgot what real rain felt like, smells like, tastes like, sounds like. Incredible!

Food is an important part of my novels, because Hong Kong food is amazing. Here's Gabe chowing down on dim sum.

Wall flowers

Bananas growing in my parents' village.

These are papayas, right?

Amazed by the beauty and color of rural Hong Kong.

One of my books takes place in a village. It's good to remember what the village houses look like.

When people think of Hong Kong, they usually think of only a huge city. Do any of these photos surprise you?

Tomorrow I'm planning to visit a history museum to learn more about Chinese opera. So excited!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hong Kong Trip: We're Here!

My boy and I made it safely to Hong Kong!

It was a grueling fourteen-hour flight, but it was all worth it to see these smiling faces of family when we landed.

We're looking forward to a great trip here.

Our first item on the agenda, as soon as it's morning, is to eat Dim Sum, which is traditional Cantonese breakfast.

Traveling with my son, Gabe, has been a pleasure. He had to learn a lot about patience yesterday, but it's so fun to experience this with him because he is so filled with wonder at everything ... from the size of our plane, to the escalators and moving sidewalks at the airport, to the number of floors in his aunt Michelle's apartment building. The last time he was in Hong Kong, he was five years old and he doesn't remember a lot. I'm so excited to introduce this American small-town boy to Asian city life.

Watch out, Hong Kong! Here we come!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Juggling Act & My Trip to Hong Kong

Hello, blog! Hello, bloggy friends!

Today I'm over on my agent Kate Testerman's blog chatting with my bud (and agent sister and valued critique partner) Krista Van Dolzer about how we juggle writing and motherhood.

If you're interested, head over there!

Also, I'm taking a trip to Hong Kong next week to visit my parents and sister, and while I'm there, I'll be doing lots of research for two new novels. I'll be posting some of the fruits of my research--photos and interesting bits of information. I hope you'll come back and visit.

How are you spending your spring break?