5 days in Hong Kong

Cab to airport in Shanghai – including in seat TV with constant advertising …

taxi screen

Flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong was easy. My low cost airline even had a German option on the entertainment system!

And public transport is also great in Hong Kong. Took the airport express to Kowloon Station. From there I had a free shuttle bus to my hotel. Glad I chose the harbor view room: have been staring out of my hotel window a lot. When I arrived in the late afternoon I decided to do a “night in” and opted for an amazing seafood dinner at the hotel. To then stare at the view a bit more  …

cruise skyline night

My cold is pretty “clingy” thus I took it slow on my first days … and started my days with trips to the local Chinese pharmacy. I have been back to get the same med again and now I keep getting nice tips from the clerk on when to take them and how to get better as well as waves when I walk by.

After the pharmacy I started to explore Hong Kong Island, which involved many means for transport: hotel shuttle bus to ferry terminal, Star Ferry over to Central, the mid level escalator (longest escalator in the world) to Hollywood road, then the tram to Causeway Bay and eventually the ferry back to Kowloon. Visited a famous temple and some shops, but mostly took in the city as it passed by on the various means of transportation.

Star Ferry Hong Kong

Mid Level escalator - longest in the world

Mid Level escalator – longest in the world

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Temple in the middle of skyscrapers

Random shop window find

Random shop window find

Hong Kong is clearly all about shopping. There are lines in front of the many super expensive stores. My only purchase (apart from food in 5 days: two post cards … I must be a very rare exception!)

After a short break at the hotel, I ventured out to see the Temple Street night market and walked back along Nathan Road to make it to the waterfront in time for the nightly light show. A million pictures later, I walked along the Avenue of Stars back to my hotel. Exhausted but also inspired by a lot of new impressions.

Night market display

Friday – hoping the sun would burn of the haze – I took the ferry to CheungChau Island. Mona and Markus recommended the island. And even though the sun never broke through, I had a great day exploring the island and getting a great work out at the same time. Amazing how often you can go up and down on an island that is only 2.5 square kilometers big.

The ferry had been crowded and I was a bit worried when I first saw the waterfront. Lots of people and one seafood restaurant to the next already serving a lot of customers. But my travel guide was right – most locals do not venture beyond the main drag and come for food only. For the better part of the day, I was alone hiking through hills and walking along beaches. At some point I even worried that if the stray dogs that seemed to own the beach would attack me, no one would ever find me …

many stairs to lookout

colorful boats all sizes

colorful boats all sizes

colorful barrels

colorful barrels

artwork at temple on island

artwork at temple on island

island cemetary

island cemetary

island impressions

island impressions

school trip to the island with a random European as attraction

school trip to the island with a random European as attraction

Managed to include some hiking ... in Hong Kong of all places!

Managed to include some hiking … in Hong Kong of all places!

Back at the hotel I hit the pool for the first time – deciding to beat this cold by working it off. Once in the pool, the sun broke through for the first time since I arrived and I swam looking at the skyline drenched in an amazing sunset.

Hong Kong sunset

Hong Kong sunset

Evening ended with Mona and Markus – that came from Shanghai for the weekend – and some of their MBA friends at the famous Sevva Bar in Central. Amazing view – was just too cold on the terrace. But we got seats inside. Fun night – only getting back to Kowloon took over an hour, since cabs do not want to make the trip. Luckily I had local support who at some point just bribed a taxi driver ;)

Next day it was really sunny – but windy. Took it slowly after the long night out. Wrote this by the pool. Needed to get my swimming in before I headed to town again. Mona and Markus took me up to the Peak – and guess what, ever there Hong Kong attractions come with a shopping mall …

From the peak

me at the Peak Hong Kong

the tower on the left is the Ritz where in the highest hotel bar in the world I said my farewell to Hong Kong in style

the tower on the left is the Ritz where in the highest hotel bar in the world I said my farewell to Hong Kong in style

Later we met with Mona’s family for a seafood dinner at “happy seafood”. Really fortunate to have local company and guiding on this trip! I would have never ventured to this area of Hong Kong – and according to the locals, as a foreigner, I would have been cheated with the food. But as I was with locals … we picked out the seafood which was then taken to the restaurant a few doors down and prepared to our orders. It was AMAZING.

Buying seafood

Buying seafood

seafood galore

seafood galore

seafood prepared

seafood prepared

yumm
yumm

mastering chop sticks

mastering chop sticks

Met with some more friends at a local bar – and while still on the wrong side of town, I had no problem getting a cab back to my hotel.

My last day in Hong Kong my hosts took me to dim sum brunch at the restaurant they had their wedding reception at. The food drives by on carts and you can see what you choose. If you pick something your card gets the responding “stamp”. Another delicious meal!

food cart with menue

food cart with menue

restaurant tracking system

restaurant tracking system

We then took the train to Hong Kongs big Buddha – and yes, both the cable car station as well as the way to the Buddha itself are … shopping malls.

shoppingsstrip on the way to buddha

shopping strip on the way to Buddha

Despite the haze, the cable car ride was great. Lines were long, but we mastered the many stairs up the “largest outside sitting bronze Buddha” in the world. Everything seems to have to be big in Hong Kong … even the incense sticks:

giant smoke

giant smoke

Mona and Markus at big Buddha

Mona and Markus at big Buddha

cable car in the haze

cable car in the haze

cable car and budda as sun sets

cable car and budda as sun sets

not alone

not alone

At the cable car I had to say farewell to Mona and Markus who were incredible hosts. They went to the airport to head back to Shanghai. While I spent a night in at my hotel packing for a very early departure for Koh Samui in Thailand the next morning.

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Shanghai on my own

(This post has been sitting staged on my blog – too busy relaxing to push publish ;) )

I admit, I was a bit worried if I would be able to manage getting around in Shanghai without my local “tour guides”. After all, my Chinese does not go beyond “Hello”. But Shanghai public transport is easy. Everything is also labeled in English, maps everywhere, and once you learn to move with the flow of people it is fairly stress free. Payment is done with a pre-loaded card – thus also no issue with getting tickets – easy!

And I chose the perfect day. Even the paper said so the next day:

perfect day: above, the day I had in Shanghai. Below: same view in late December.

My first stop was Yuan Garden. Once I fended of the scammers that acted like fellow tourists and tried to tell me the place was closed (my cousin had warned me of this …)  … I made it through the shopping mall with to the entrance of the garden. Getting there early enough was good – it was quiet for most of the time I was there. I took A LOT of pictures, some of them below.

woman on bridge mirrored

I am actually here!

I am actually here!

Had to throw in a selfy ;)

window art

red and grey house

Most fascinating was the contrast between old and new. Beautiful old buildings and gardens and just above them, shiny new skyscrapers.

Shanghai old and new

Shanghai old and new

After the culture portion of the day, I went up on one of the skyscrapers to see the city from above: Oriental Perl Tower. An “interesting” piece of architecture with a lot of pink … Judging from the queueing facilities, it is a lot busier usually. For the few people in line I was clearly the main attraction. I was very politely asked to pose with them for pictures. Which I did.

View from Perl tower

View from Perl tower

Shanghai Skyline

Once up on the tower, I learned that I could not make myself stand on the glass floor at all. 250 something stories above ground – by survival instincts denied me this photo opp.

Oriental Perl Tower selfy

Oriental Perl Tower selfy

Time for some shopping: I went down the main shopping road: Nanjing. In one of the department stores, the sales assistants seemed to have to wear the latest sales items. Winter coats were on sale … I felt for them in the overheated building. And am wondering if they also have to present swimwear when it is on sale …

Also stopped in a multi level store for food – both local and international specialties. Dried crab snack for the road anyone?

dried crab to goOr rather a smiling doughnut?

smiling doughnuts

There were a number of restaurants at the top floor and I went for some Indian curry.  Felt like being back in East Germany, I have to admit, when in the totally empty restaurant I asked to sit by the window, but was simply told “No” and appointed a table by the entrance. Guess they wanted people to see they had customers … even though this one was not very happy now.

Next on my agenda was people square. Big, impressive buildings … and a Starbucks. They are literally at every corner in Shanghai. Along with KFC – I have never seen so many KFC outlets anywhere. I actually started to take pictures of them ;)

s_KFC

I admit I did take a break at Starbucks. Sometimes the known and used to is relaxing. Then I did the math … a medium Starbucks coffee costs as much as about 10 subway rides in Shanghai or one entry to the Yuan Garden or in fact one curry lunch.  In summary. I should not have been sitting at Starbucks as People Square taking these notes …

The next day, the weather was not as nice … I took a walk in the area cold French Connection, with lots of old colonial villas and  now a lot of design shops. Had lunch in the hip new part of town … I actually had pizza ;). Then headed north for a walk along the water and the Bund.

sky and water with tower

Behind the main Bund is the “Rockefeller Bund” – named for the Rockerfeller Foundation that is funding the remodelling,

Rockefeller Bund

When the rain set in, I had tea at the famous Peace hotel.

That evening we had my farewell dinner at a very hip restaurant – so hip, it did not allow pictures. Even though I would have loved one of the huge geisha paintings – geishas with Mickey Mouse ears!

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Many Posts in One

Welcome to China – but no access to Facebook or WordPress for me.  Guess I knew this, but it did not really register until I tried to access my blog. But I am writing my posts anyhow and my cousin will show me a way to post them later –more updates will then follow when I am in Hong Kong and Thailand.

Only been away for 3 days, but – as you will see – I already saw a lot and thus time flies. Feels more like a week or more. And already only one more full day in Shanghai before I fly to Hong Kong. The plan is to spend tomorrow strolling through the old French quarter, the hip shopping area and maybe I will take some more photos of the Bund at night and I guess I have to go on the Transrapid.

 But here they are – my different posts, all in one:

 TRAVELING OBSERVATIONS

       Traveling with a cold, not much fun. Only upside, once your ears are blocked on the plane, you hardly hear the children around you screaming …

2.      Jan 3rd was travel day for (what felt like) all ex-pads returning to Shanghai from their Christmas break at home. I have never been on a flight with that many children.

3.      I guess my annoyed look is pretty scary. At least the little boy next to me convinced his mom to swop seats with him after I glared at him when he kept kicking me – I ignored it the first 50 times … but there is a limit.

4.      Warnings were given to me about Chinese being very pushy (and a little rude) when in line … no one told me the German ex-pads at immigrations are worse!

5.      Someone wise – you know who you are – gave me the great advice to look at things that might look like a challenge in a more playful way. In short: I am having great fun playing my very own “scavenger hunt” (only in my head) and rewarding myself points for achievements:

Actually finding ATM at airport would have been 100 points, but I granted myself 50 for exchanging cash before even collecting my luggage

Maneuvering around unofficial taxi drivers: 10 bonus points

Noticing scammers that try to lure you away from tourist attractions, telling you they are closed, only to direct you into their stores: 100 points (I had been well trained for this one by my cousin Markus!

      Not many tall red heads in China. I had my picture taken countless times today.  A few times I was even asked to pose with people. Slightly feeling like a celeb, but the effect is wearing off quickly!

AMAZING FOOD

Staying with my cousin Markus and his wife Mona has many advantages – free housing, local tour guides, great company and as an extra bonus, they are foodies, and have taken me to some amazing places for meals.

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Within three hours of arriving in Shanghai I was at Din Tai Fung the dumpling place I had read so many great reviews about. So good!!! And since really close to where I am staying, I might go back for more before leaving. But day 1 got even better: My hosts had made reservations for us at Lost Heaven a traditional Chinese restaurant with great design and great food.

My highlight so far was dinner at Mr. and Mrs. Bund – right on the famous street Bund. What a place: charming name, great design, amazing view and good service and delicious food. A bit hard to describe, but a bit like French cuisine meets tapas meets China. Am so glad, Mona and Markus know the manager of the place, she got us a table (hard to get) and even one with an amazing view. And then she treated us to desert: tarte tatin and strawberries with coca-cola sorbet. Life can be pretty good.  Someday I will come back without a cold … when I can appreciate the full flavor of every dish!

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Tonight we have reservations for a Korean place. For lunch I had Indian. Culinary tour through Asia in Shanghai!

Had my Indian curry at a foodhall – more like a huge department store for food. Many levels of local and international food. Including shrimp in snack size packages …

crab snack

crab snack

When we shopped for breakfast, I was surprised by the choice of bread (fresh whole grain rolls!) as well as all the international brands at the shop just across the street from my cousins flat. Literally – a shelf full of German jam (all imported with German labels), various types of regional German bratwurst ;) and a larger German beer selection than in my local supermarket at home! The explanation I got: More and more people here think that foreign products will not have been tempered with … a lot of people lost trust in local products after the baby milk powder scandal a few years ago.

Rows of German beer

Rows of German beer

SIGHTS

 My travel theme this year seems to be: go to a city for a few days but spend the first day there traveling someplace else. Helsinki for 2 days – first day in Tallinn. Shanghai for 4 days – first day in Hangzhou. Mona and Markus came with me to visit the famous Westlake. And while the train station in Shanghai was super modern and run like an airport, I was glad I had my personal guides that speak the language! (And I will likely continue the trend by spending my first day in Hong Kong … in Macao).

Foogy Westlake

Foogy Westlake

Back to Hangyhou: The modern highspeed train only takes a little over an hour for the 200km trip. And along the ride it got more and more foggy – I thought. I soon learn the fog was smog. With air pollution levels at over 300 in Hangzhou. Thanks to my cold, I could hardly breeze anyhow, so I did not notice much difference.

Boat on Westlake - ours was slightly bigger

Boat on Westlake – ours was slightly bigger

We took a boat on the Westlake – fog / smog can be very mystical! Then went to see famous stone carvings – I just love the budda’s smile! We visited one of the largest temples in China and took a stroll through an old Chinese village that has been turned into a luxury hotel.

Temple moment

Temple moment

budda

budda

Mona and Markus exploring the caves

Mona and Markus exploring the caves

Today I ventured out on my own. Subway system is great here. I will not understand why only backpacks need to be ex-rayed before entering the subway – but since there has never been a wait, I don’t mind being checked.  Some random pics below. It got late and I need to go sleep. Will add and update when in Hong Kong.

Westlake zigzag bridge

Westlake zigzag bridge

Shanghai old and new

Shanghai old and new

I am actually here!

I am actually here!

Colorful Shanghai at night

Colorful Shanghai at night

View from Perl tower

View from Perl tower

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Things I set out to do …

… and get to do now at Mozilla.

When recent construction work forced me to go through my office “stuff”, I came across career goals I had written down about 10 years ago. The exercise asked for the things I would be looking for in a job.

Just checked my job at Mozilla against this old list:

- work on strategy: check

- build networks / connect people: check

- contribute to public debate / drive change: check

- use languages and travel: check

- continue to learn: check

- teach and consult: check

Not all things in life work as planned, but some do!

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Re-Reading the Mozilla Manifesto

When I worked at eBay, every employee had a copy of the believes the eBay founder had defined on their badge. It sometimes looked a bit odd – like you were part of a cult running around with a piece of plastic saying: People are basically good. It might only be in my memory, but I do think having those principles visible made a difference in decision-making and interacting with community.

Why am I mentioning this? Because sometimes it is inspiring to look back to those basic principles that were powerful enough to inspire a hand full of people to create something amazing. Something that changed an industry and more. Thus,  time to re-read the Mozilla Manifesto. Working on some new projects, I was looking for that one phrase to help me define my goals.

And I found it: “We invite others to join Mozilla and make the Internet an even better place for everyone”. Add a bit of influencing to the equation and this is my mantra for the next few months.

Not the shortest vision statement. Maybe has a bit too much pathos for some. (Author is a very rational German after all). But I warned you. This blog is personal and bias. And this is how I feel right now. This is how I want to make a difference in 2012.

And, I just put a flag in my calender for July – will be interesting to see if my goals and vision have changed.

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The small things shape memories

Then kinds of things people displayed at the Mozilla Summit World Expo

It has been a little over a week since I left Whistler after the Mozilla Summit 2010. A week that was filled with a lot of meetings and conversations and international travel that kept me busy – too busy to blog about my first Mozilla Summit. But maybe that was good. Had I written about the summit earlier, this blog might have been more generally about the impressive group of people, the professional organization or the fun party on the last evening. A week later – and I am sure this process will continue – the small things and the personal moments that made this gathering of 600 Mozillian’s so special for me are starting to dominate my memories. Moments like these:

Feeling the energy in the room rise during the keynotes with their impressive demos. And at the same time,  being taught, once more, the impact of technology on the individual. When watching my blind colleague Marco follow the demo that made the browser “speak”, all the possibilities this piece of software might entail were visible in his huge smile.

Connecting with a contributor from Jordan while holding up a sign for the “dine about”.  We had a ton of fun without speaking a word –  and created a memory we shared though out the summit.

Seeing the same long row of monitors and tables showcasing impressive demos and the widths of the Mozilla project transformed only hours later into a world expo that made the international impact of Mozilla very tangible (and palatable!).

Finding a different card on my pillow every evening that made me smile, think or dream big!

And then the countless small moments, that are only important to me, but make all the difference in turning an interesting event into a great experience: being asked to sit down and share a meal at a table full of stangers people I had not met yet, laughing with folks I see a few times a year at Mozilla events, dancing foolishly at 6000 feet with friends I get to see too rarely, and endless short but memorable conversations in elevators, the food line or at the bar.

Writing this, I start suffering from post-summit-blues again. Beware! Mozilla events are addictive.

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short Auckland visit

Seems like the North Island does not agree with my travel focus on the South … While it was beautiful and sunny when I left Queenstown this morning, it is pouring rain since I landed in Auckland. Luckily my hotel is nice, I have a great view of the harbor, just had really nice room service food and will continue to play with my pictures. Such a difference seeing the pics on a big screen and not just on the small camera display!

Did pick up my laptop at the Auckland office today and downloaded a bit over 1000 emails. I will definitely not get bored on the flight to San Fransisco tomorrow. So far I have mostly looked at the coverage around 5 years of Firefox. Am a bit in awe how great it was and really proud of my PR agencies in Europe! But back to this trip …

Doubtful Sound view

The weather gods where on my side when I took the tour to Doubtful Sound yesterday. The ocean was calm, the sky was blue and we got to see rare penguins, seals and a group of dolphins put on a show for us that made me wonder if I had ended up at Sea World.

school of penguins

dolphin show in the wild

The view from the plane was also great. Definitely a view that make me want to come back and climb a few more mountains!

Queenstown to Christchurch

Note: nice hotel BUT in the party area of Auckland … and it is Friday night. Might be first time I will need my earplugs on this trip!

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