December 31, 2013

Happy New Year's!

So, in case you were wondering, the inter-tubes from Australia to the rest of the civilized world are very small.  Or crowded.  Or something.  If you look at the comments from E a few posts back, he pasted ping times, and for those of you who know how the Internet works, this should help explain the situation.

Essentially, even though we're back in AUS from NZ and at a hotel with dedicated Internet, this post is still short by necessity, because it would take forever to upload all the photos I'd like to share about our trip and I've got a flight tomorrow.  Oh, and tomorrow, the day, is somehow going to stretch out forever (as in, I'll board my flight, and land in California 16 hours later or something, but 2 hours before I left -- *and* despite having already rung in the new year a while ago, New Year's Eve will be occurring throughout the flight as we cross various time zones, it's enough to make my head hurt).

In other news, the decision that E&I should join the Sydney Royal Botanical Garden Foundation paid off:

Ticketed Event at the Botanical Gardens.  Controlled Access.  No crowding.  Amazing.
The short version of the year's wrap up post is this:

Total Miles (running, walking, hiking, and occasionally other aerobic activities like elliptical or recumbant biking, but never yoga, because that would be crazy): 1311 (better recap to come).

Total Books Read: 21 (missing summaries to come).

Total Audiobooks: 38 (missing summaries to come).

General 2013 Goals: Well, as I noted back in September, things just generally didn't totally go according to plan this year... Even so.  It's been better than good -- our families are healthy, we are healthy, and I definitely didn't expect to hit 7 countries this year (Bermuda, Netherlands, Spain, Hong Kong, China, Australia, New Zealand) when I made my initial plans.  Given all of the above and the fact that I do love me some international travel and cultural experiences, I'm pleased and feel exceedingly lucky.

Lucky.  That's the take-home I have from 2013.  I am so lucky.  And I want to be appropriately grateful and worthy of receiving such luck -- Here's to hoping I take 2014 by the horns and do a good job of that.

Happy New Year!

December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Today, amongst other adventures, we walked across the Sydney Harbor Bridge and back.

On our way back, despite having spent yesterday afternoon by the pool (Where you'd assume we would figure it out), from high above, we realized our hotel had a hot tub on the roof at pool level (see the bottom right quadrant).

Don't fret.

We took this information in and put it to good use.  We were the only people post early-dinner at the hotel in the hot tub at this amazing location on Christmas Eve.

This is a complete win.

In other news, walking and running every day means I'm on track for my highest mileage week in years... True vacation is amazing.

December 23, 2013

Then vs. Now

Back when we were kids, E and I went to Sydney for the end of 2004 and New Year's 2005.  A few days into that new year, E proposed on Bondi Beach and I said yes.  We had a wonderful time.

This year, our families were dispersed such that for the first time since we've been together, it made sense for us to go off and do Christmas and New Year's by ourselves.  We decided to go back to Sydney (and fit in a trip to New Zealand to boot).  Many things have changed in the intervening 9 years.  And yet, many things are the same.

Major things that are the same:
1. The Aussies' own brand of absolute relaxation.  Think Italy, but functional -- so amazing.
2. Our address.
3. My car.
4. Our general dislike of shopping (relevant because the airline temporarily lost one of our bags and we decided to tough it out rather than maximize the reimbursement policy).
5. Our general appreciation of the type of stuff we like to enjoy while we travel (the same stuff we liked last time, we like this time, too):  The beachfront Greek restaurant in Bondi we'd loved, we were thrilled to find, is still open.  And, the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar is still a Circular Quay institution of happiness that we had to enjoy again.

But, of course, things are different, too.  It's much warmer and oddly overcast while hot and humid this trip.  So far, there's been no need for fleeces or jackets, for sure.  Last time, we bargain shopped for hotels, while this time, we went for the ultimate bargain of free and just stayed at the Park Hyatt on points (and, damn, what a perfect location -- at the base of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, one entrance just off George St. in the Rocks and the other on the water in Circular Quay):

While the bar at Hotel Bondi where we'd had sparkling wine to celebrate our engagement with some random Italians is still there and operational and was a fun place to stop for a beer, the hotel where we stayed in Bondi is completely under construction -- and when completed, it will be, in keeping with the theme we see in the bay area -- luxury condos.

The biggest differences we are noticing are technological.  This time, we have wifi in our hotel, laptops, and cell phones that automatically do international roaming thanks to all of this year's international travel (btw, how the hell did people manage delayed/lost luggage before cell phones?).  Last time, we had no phones that worked in any sense of the word, and we didn't even manage to get to an Internet Cafe (remember those?) to send the email announcing our engagement for 2 full days after its occurrence.

Overall, we're very much enjoying our re-visit and we've made a commitment to come back in 9 more years (or less) to do the Sydney Harbor Bridge walk and to revisit all of our favorite gems that happen to still exist at that time.

Best wishes to all for happy winter holidays (Happy Solstice -- days are now getting longer in the northern hemisphere!  Merry Christmas!  Happy Belated Hanukkah! Joy to those of you who eschew specific holidays!) and a Happy New Year as well.

December 15, 2013

Jingle Bell Hell

Well, I said I was gonna do it, but I'm traveling on the IRL race day, so I committed to a *virtual* Jingle Bell Hell.

My plan was, I'd go out today from our SF hotel and do *at least* 8 miles up and down the Embarcadero, *and* I had to run all of the uphills.  Everything else was undefined.  I could walk as much as my ego would let me.

Why should this be hell?

8 miles is a relatively short distance for someone who ran 5 half marathons and a full marathon in 2013, right?

You might think so, but for me, you'd be: WRONG.  Wrong. Wrong.

After I DNF'd the SJ RNR half, I wasn't really feeling like running much, so I didn't and I haven't much.  Also, since SJ RNR, there was tons of travel on the calendar to regions with delicious food, where I felt like eating, so I did (and I stand by my decision).

Fast forward 2.5 months.  Add approximately 1.5 pounds per month on my already heavy DNFing frame and, well, today's 8 miles felt like an eternity (possibly because my body has never actually been this massive, so moving it long distances is more work, in the physics sense?).

Also I did it alone.  I started at 9:30 AM after a weekend of holiday parties full of food and too much alcohol (extra hell points?).  I did succumb to my audiobook for company, but Wild Swans isn't exactly light and cheery or inspirational with its detailed gory tales of the beatings and horrors of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (Amazing story though... HIGHLY recommended).

In the winter cold of San Francisco (which means I couldn't even blame much slowness on the pedestrians on the Embarcadero because most stayed indoors), I forced myself to attack minute chunks in succession.  A mile here.  A quarter mile at sub 9 there.  A third of a mile at 9:10 there.  And, of course, in classic BT-just-increase-the-overall-mileage-style, lots of walking.

All told, 8 miles in a blazing 1:41:10 for an average pace of 12:39 (although nothing was near this pace).  Slow.  Stopping and starting.  Exhausting.  And, the first time I've done 8 miles since late September, as my last long run before the SJ DNF.

Overall, it was unpleasant, and I'm frustratingly tired, but in fairness, I'm actually also pleased.  Looks like I'm heading in the right direction despite taking the easy way out and walking whenever I felt like it between miles and shorter duration segments.

I fully expect to take sub 50% place in the Jingle Bell Hell.  But I'm thankful it was out there to get me on my shoes, nonetheless.

Thanks to the lovely blogger behind Taking It On for the push.

Bittersweet Aging

I think the hardest part of aging as a healthy person firmly in your "middle age" is when you realize that even if you are blessed with currently good health, time *is* *still* actually passing you by.

This Holiday season, we've attended several parties where it seems like it's only been a few months or possibly even weeks since we've interacted in person with the attendees... but no.  When we discuss it, it turns out, we actually haven't seen each other in at least 12 months.  In other words, Time Is Flying!

And, those of us who actually experience this shock?  We're the lucky ones.  We are still here.  The last few years, I've personally known a few people my own age who have died of natural causes.  Like all losses, the pain will never completely fade -- it will mellow, but won't completely go away.  But, the reality that I am old enough that a non-trivial percentage of my cohort is starting to die of natural causes is a separate but difficult thing, which, conveniently, my brain has decided to try to process during the Holidays.  Fun!  (Not.)

Then there are the kids -- Every time I see them, unless they are local or family I see regularly, children seem to be shockingly 1 year, 2 years, or 7 years older than the last time I saw them.   It's the kids that really get me.  Make no mistake -- Seeing a child you haven't seen in 8 years will floor you.  And then, there is nothing you can do but admit that you are old.  Much older than you've been telling yourself.

I rebelled against the pressures of time for so long.  I insisted on maintaining close relationships with friends who lived far away.  We had the phone.  We had time. We could be the exception to the rule that says all of your most important emotional interactions come from those that are physically and psychologically close to you due to shared experience.

But then, along came my close friends' and families' children, not to mention the pick-up of my career, E's career, the careers of all of those who stayed on the traditional career ladder, and the need to travel if E & I wanted to spend time together as a couple rather than apart. All of a sudden, the rule was right for me, too.

Those I sincerely care about from afar, and lately even those who live close by (and no doubt me for them) belong to the same category as my monthly wine club -- I could swear I make the effort to pick it up every month, and yet, every time I go, I have 4 to 6 months worth of deliveries to sign for.

Oh, Time.  You devil.  Despite your deleterious effects -- how thankful I am to be here, still enjoying your annoyances...  This shall make for some interesting New Year's Resolutions, methinks.

Enjoy your Holidays!

December 8, 2013

Spectating CIM -- a beautiful day!

This AM, bright and early (and colder than a witch's teat), Jen graciously picked me up at 6:05 AM at our hotel for the night (the dual hotel-home life for work continues, but we're slowly learning how to manage it...).

The plan?  Go pick up K, hit Starbucks, drive to CIM, cheer at mile 11, drive to mile 20, cheer, and then drive to the finish and cheer.  Then brunch with Jen, K & F on the Delta King. And then drive F and myself home in F's car since her legs probably wouldn't be working very well.

Execution? Not bad.  At mile 11, we cheered hard, where Jen's sign proclaiming "Run Now, Beer Later" was quite the hit.  We met up with Milf Runner and shared cheering duties for various folks.  It was COLD!

I was happy to see Paulette at mile 11, and was amused when she responded to the "How's your run going?" with a very humble "Decent..." on her way to a HUGE PR (on a recently sprained ankle!). Classy lady!

One of the most fun parts was watching the mood and the mental space for reading signs and interacting with the supporters increase as the seriousness of the running speed decreased.  In all honesty, the folks behind the 4H pace group look like they are having *way* more fun than the speedsters.

F went out fast and we missed her in the 3:40 pace group, but the runner reporting was wonderful, so we knew she'd hit the half at a half PR (not bad!) and could adjust our plans accordingly.  

We missed mile 20 due to some driving snafus, but K & Jen saw many friends at mile 11, so we were comfortable heading to 26ish to cheer on the finishers.  Once there, it was so inspirational -- we saw everyone from before the 3:10 group 'til 3:45+.  Nothing makes me want to run CIM like cheering at the CIM finish!  Perhaps next year... we'll see.

F passed us somewhere around the same time as the 3:45 pace group and as she headed for the loop to the finish, I hot-footed it in my wool knee-length coat, scarf, jeans, compression socks, long sleeve shirt, and big-ass-purse while Heisman-blocking the crowd to try to catch her at the finish.  I missed her at the finish line, but got there in time to capture the triumphant 3:45 PR post-finish energy in this awesome pic:

Overall, it was an awesome way to spend a day.  What a great race Sacramento puts on (home town pride!!!), and how fun it was to watch and support all the runners.  And, dragging my bay area peeps to Old Town Sac for some proper river steamboat restaurant post-race lunch was a perfect way to end the day!

December 1, 2013

Baby Steps

Welcome back from the Holiday, Y'all.  In a wonderfully surprising development, despite 6 days in the delicious land of pork, lard, and fried, I only brought 1 lb. of the South back with me.  The previous record low has to be at the lowest 4 lbs -- so this is a PR.  It may be my only fitness related PR this year, so I'll take it.

Given that I indulged as much as I did, this is kind of amazing.  I mean, we had a HUGE Thanksgiving afternoon of food and wine (*AND* the first bloody mary I've ever actually enjoyed -- my Dad was a big bloody man, so I was pleased to finally understand.  Apparently, for me, it just needs to be *ridiculously* spicy and it has to have a pickle, then I'll love it and sip it with care much longer than everyone else in the room, which is a great side benefit of its own).  The other notable indulgences on the short trip included all of E's family/Southern food awesomeness including E's Mom's meaty spaghetti, E's mom's ground beef and risotto stuffed peppers, a lunch of a meat sandwich and potato chips (seriously -- no vegetables at all), spanakopita/pimento cheese/salmon mouse tartlette/etc. hors d'ouevres with wine or champagne before various meals, gratuitous bacon (of course), sausages (for dinner), japanese everything at a deliciously authentic ramen++ lunch out with the family, a true Southern "vegetable plate" laden with fried okra, fried sunchokes, broiled broccoli, mac and cheese, and collard greens cooked with ham, a fancy burger bar joint lunch with friends and fried pickles (Seriously -- I LOVE me some fried pickles), a true Southern breakfast of egg-in-a-hole with roasted tomato preserves and a side of cheese grits (in a sacrilegious but much appreciated deviation, they offered sauteed kale as an option in lieu of a biscuit or potatoes -- but the biscuit is apparently the best in ATL, so choose at your own peril), plus lots of delicious wine, beer, and, in a late night jet-lag hunger random kitchen raid, half a bag of Inca Corn Nuts.

You see what I'm saying?  This PR is a veritable miracle.  Go me.

After the eating orgy and the hard, hilly, and cold (but slow) effort at the ATL Thanksgiving 5K, I was inspired to try to pull together my end of year and early 2014 running/fitness goals.

Turns out, they are fairly simple.  Today, I did a very easy 5.5 miles at 10:35/mile, another 0.5 mile walking cooldown and closed out a week of 16 miles total.

If I increase that "long run" by approximately 1 mile/week (on average), I'll be ready for the Foster City 10 mile race in January. So I think I'll go ahead and sign up for it.  This should keep me honest in my running workouts over the holidays, which I need -- particularly since our Christmas/New Year's travel involves hiking, and without a running goal, I'd run the risk of writing off entirely too much time without a run at all.

After that, I'm thinking I'll do the Kaiser Half and the Oakland Half Marathon (which claims to have coupon codes for Cyber Monday -- so check it out if you're thinking of joining the fun).

My big fitness focus for the next three months is going to be on my diet/overall caloric balance, flexibility, and building up my average mileage per week without getting injured.  This likely means that my paces may take the hit or at least may not drop, but I'm hopeful that this means I'll build a decent mileage base without injury and lose some weight before trying to push on pacing (as, when I try to run hard and I'm on the heavier side, I'm more likely to pull something -- see my SJ RNR dnf).  I am happy to note that both the Foster City run and the Kaiser half have much less elevation change than the ATL 5K, so at least I can comfort myself that if nothing else, I'm already prepared for the hills...this is an anomaly for me, but one that is much appreciated.   

Other than that, I'm looking forward to spectating at CIM for inspiration next weekend and getting back in the Bikram studio and working towards multiple sessions per week while I'm in town over the next few months.  Ideally I'll get in tomorrow, but, realistically, it's the first true day back after the holiday, so if work doesn't allow it, then definitely sometime this week.  There, I said it.  Now it has to happen.

November 28, 2013


I give thanks for my multitude of family and friends today.  Especially my in-laws.

I woke at 6:50 AM EST for the 5K, and E's dad insisted on driving me.  He also insisted on bringing a heavy North Face windbreaker that was easily 5 sizes too big because the weather was much colder than normal (24F at the time).  I left the jacket in the car that he drove as close as he could to the start (mmm... car seat warmers) at 7:30 and started to walk to the corrals, slowly freezing, as it was likely 26F by then.  I arrived at my corral at 7:32.  28 minutes to go.  Uh-oh.  I had miscalculated...

I started pacing. kicking. skipping.  And then I saw N Sr (E's dad), walking toward me with the jacket with that awesomely omnipotent knowing dad's look... Oh wow.  I've missed that look.  And, also, duh, I was cold.  I took the jacket he offered.  We chatted and observed and conversed with others 'til about 5 min. before the scheduled start when I headed out for a warm-up, expecting to discard the jacket immediately, as I was *warmed up*.  I returned to E's dad and we walked to the corrals, where he talked me out of discarding my donated jacket no less than 3 times.  "No, let me stay here 'til the *actual* start (*what's the point of warming up if you cool back down?*) then you can give me your jacket and we'll be in good shape" he promised.  And he made good.  I stayed, warm, comfortable, amongst the teeth-chatterers 'til the last possible moment after the start had been announced...

I headed out with the fast folks in my corral and hit mile 1 at 8:42.  Then, holy crap, hills!  Mile 2, 9:40.  Mile 3, a nice respectable 9:08, and the last 0.1 @ 7:35/mile pace.  Overall, 28:25.  Nothing to brag about.  At all.

But overall, given my complete lack of training, the cold temps, and the segment times I hit, yeah, there's something there in terms of awesomeness.  So, I'm going to enjoy it...

And, I did.

I came back to E's folks, enjoyed breakfast, took a 2.5 hour nap (that run and early EST wake-up took it out of me), and then ate and drank and laughed my way through a delicious Thanksgiving.

Let's all be thankful and appreciative for our lives, and a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. 

November 24, 2013

New Shoes

Last week, I managed 18.28 miles running and walking  (including 3 miles sub 9 min/mile and a great 6.5 miler with F on her second to last long run before CIM) and another 60 minutes on the recumbant bike.  I know I should go back to Bikram, but now the class card has expired.  So, other than the health benefits I know I will receive, I have no incentive.  It's so hot, uncomfortable, and looking at myself in the mirror with very little clothing on while sweating profusely and contorting isn't exactly a cherry on top of that already less than appetizing sunday....

This week, I was a slacker on the workout front.  Work is *insane* right now and I'm struggling to stay afloat.  I'm having nightmares again, which is a good indicator of the stress needle getting much too high.  When that happens, something's got to give.  In the short term, getting time in exchange for giving up a workout is a great choice.  But, in the long term, my stress levels increase unless I get my mileage or other workout minutes up in parallel with the pressures I am under, so it's not a sustainable one.  C'est la vie.

In perfect evidence of my lack of commitment to my workouts in the short term, after a walking workout with a couple of short sprints to get the heart rate up on the treadmill to finish my book club book on Monday, I took Tuesday and Wednesday completely off.  Thursday, I unpacked my bag at the hotel, excited to get in my first real run of the week after my workday, only to realize I'd packed everything *except* running shoes.  So, instead, I managed 30 minutes easy on the recumbant bike (in my socks) and 2 miles walking in San Francisco (with a stop at Lady FootLocker to buy a new pair of Brooks Ghosts).

Friday, finally shod, I did a decent 4.4 mile fartlek along the Embarcadero with a brief stop to listen to the lapping water and touch the sea.  I'd hoped to fit in a run to Hopper's Hands, but I didn't have enough time, so it will have to wait for another time.  I did, however, get in some time in the mid 8's/mile, so I was pleased.

Saturday, I fit in a slow, easy 3+ mile loop around AT&T Park. I've been stressed, did I mention that? So, today, Sunday, finally home again, I set no alarm and was shocked to sleep 'til 9:45 AM, which killed my run plans, and turned them into a lame 1+ mile jog with a dead garmin. When the MP3 player died in sympathy, I called it, and walked home.  Instead we biked to and from brunch with E, F&P, plus the always adorable honorary nephew R and F's mom.

Total mileage on the shoes for this week?  A whopping 14.5.  But some decent close to 8 min/mile segments and 30 minutes recumbant bike + 20 minutes actual biking with inclines over the train tracks both ways.  And, more importantly, despite not having a race on the calendar (other than a turkey trot) I'm committed enough to running these days that I went to go get new shoes when I forgot to pack them for a 2 day out of town stay.

As I read all the running blogs I read, I find that, much like other areas of my life, I am odd.  I'm serious enough about running to do things like track my mileage, have a garmin, know pace information, and maintain a decent mileage base such that I'm guaranteed to clear 900+ miles plus for 9th year in a row, despite family health emergencies, work, drama, and life in general (and including 1,000+ for 7 of the same including a max of 1,660 in 2011).  But, I'm not fast.  I'm not a classically dedicated runner.   I don't give up social or work obligations that I *know* will impinge my training (but I will make sacrifices for races).

When I've got a race on the calendar, I feel I share more in common with my fellow running bloggers.  But these last few months?  I'm feeling like I'm in my more typical state of outlier.  Either way, I enjoyed my 14+ miles this week and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can pull off at ATL turkey trot despite the complete lack of training.

I mean, at the end of the day, if you're healthy enough to do a 5K, life is great!

November 17, 2013

Lazy Saturday at Home

For the first time in a long time, E and I had a lazy Saturday at home.  It was fabulous.

I woke, had my coffee and made some juice, piddled around the Internet, and met up with F for the last 6+ miles of her last long run before CIM.  It was the longest run I'd done since my last long run (back in September!) before dropping out of SJ RNR, and it felt good to finally get in something more than 6 miles in one effort (although I took the stairs up and down the bridge while she ran the ramps, and I had to make an emergency restroom break, so, technically, I got a few short rests, which were very helpful).

She is so ready, I'm very excited to go cheer her on in a few weeks at CIM (anyone else need me to keep an eye out and/or be waiting with a sign, fuel, liquid?  Just say the word.)

After I cleaned up, E and I headed downtown for a lazy mediterranean lunch in the direct sun on the main street -- the temperatures are cool enough now that the sun felt absolutely wonderful on my face and hands.  The sky was blue, the leaves were orange and red and yellow -- it was a perfect Fall day.  We smiled and laughed and passed the time people watching while sipping wine and picking our way through too much food.  We took home leftovers with a plan of eating them for dinner with salad.

The late afternoon was a collection of some work for both of us.  Nothing that absolutely had to be done, but we each tended to things that felt good to get out of the way before the deadlines loomed.  Some phone calls.  An hour or two of drafting for me.  We visited E's new lab and the new office where the company will be moving in a bit -- Both looked great.  It felt so great to get ahead of things without the frenetic pressure to finish on time.

For the evening's entertainment, I was struck with inspiration.  Instead of leftovers and salad, we agreed we would order a pizza and watch The Hunt For the Red October (Alec Baldwin is such a young man in this movie!).

Apparently, the last pizza we'd ordered had been back in September of 2012 (no wonder I was so excited about this plan).  Unfortunately, our goto pizza joint had closed.  E seemed to remember that he'd managed to find their replacement, owned by the same folks last time, so we spent quite some time confirming that, sadly, yes, it had closed completely and there was no verifiable successor.

The next hour was evaluating all of our alternate options and trying to order pizzas on horribly ineffectual web interfaces.  For example, one option took 3 attempts to get the order expensive enough to qualify for delivery (at least 15 minutes because you couldn't edit an order to move a pizza from small to medium, you actually had to start over, pick medium and then pick all of your toppings), and then, after three attempts, when we finally had the order at the correct price point, we were informed that they don't deliver Pizza on the weekends.  Who doesn't deliver pizza on the weekends?  Why do I think this joint is going to go out of business soon (if they haven't already)?

Finally, we stumbled upon Mountain Mike's web interface -- you can select toppings by each half!  Done.

We started the movie.  The pizza was delivered and was delicious in the way that only guilty pleasure food can be.  And, predictably, I fell asleep halfway through the movie.

I slept 12 hours.

That, my friends, is an awesomely lazy day.   

November 16, 2013

A Tale of a Tram and Many Metros

One afternoon, E played hooky from the conference and we took the tram up Victoria Peak.  The line was quite long and they section the crowd into groups so that only a group of folks who will fit are allowed to advance at one time.  When it was our turn to board, a South American man shielded his girlfriend from behind, grabbed the railings and they got on.  Then, a group of Danish people boarded.  They were partially in front of me and partially behind me but they funneled their group to enter as one.  Behind them (and originally behind me and E) was a couple from Hong Kong (I assume).  I stepped forward to enter just as the man from Hong Kong did.

He tried to muscle me out of his way.

You can probably guess where this is going.

We basically wrestled our way through the door, entering the car at roughly the same time.  At the last minute I gave up when I realized I was actually stronger than this poor dude, and probably had an unfair weight advantage to boot.  I was struggling out of frustration at his rudeness and the fact that he thought I'd be an easy mark -- he sure as heck didn't try to cut in front of the Danes.  But, I realized he was probably struggling with his own manhood.  He said to me after we entered, "You're terrible."  I replied with the ever witty, "No. You're terrible.  I was in front of you and you're extremely rude."

The best part was that after this, the wife looked at E at the door and he graciously motioned with his hand and said, "After You."  She glared at her husband as she sat down.   

Finally inside the tram.

Views of the tracks from inside the station at the top.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn't great so the views weren't at their best.  But we still enjoyed it.

On the next peak over, there was a big house (?) with a bright red piano.  Very striking.

On Saturday after the conference, we took the daytrip E had been dreaming of (an early birthday celebration of sorts).  First, we took a taxi to Hung Hom station, where we ate a Chinese style breakfast from the cafeteria.

Then we took a metro to the Chinese border.  Then through Hong Kong exit immigration, Chinese immigration and customs, and onto another metro to get to the electronics markets district in Shenzhen.

It was a chaotic mess of components, and E was in heaven.  The ground floor of the biggest market we went to was individual stalls for each component type, each stall run by a different family.  There were children running around everywhere in the middle of multi-story boxes and reels and whatnot.

Anyone need an IP camera?   They're all looking at me...
After a couple of hours of gawking, we did the multi-metro and immigration madness to get back into Hong Kong.  Then, we went to dinner at the restaurant on the highest floor in the world on the 119th floor of the Ritz Carlton Tower.

The food and wine was good, but the views were definitely the best part.

And the next day, it was time to go home.

November 15, 2013

The Big Buddha

One of the days in Hong Kong, I managed to finish my work in time to head over to the Tian Tan Buddha at the Po Lin Monastery.

My original hope had been to hike from Tung Chung up to Ngong Ping, but after doing a bunch of online reading, I realized I was woefully underprepared to take on that challenge.  It was more like a full day commitment, not something I could start in on at 3:30 PM unless I wanted to be on a challenging hike in the dark in a foreign land by myself (not so much).

A portion of the hike.  The Internet did not lie -- it would have been a big commitment.

So, I rode the Ngong Ping 360 cable car.  Thanks to GK, I knew to splurge on the Crystal Palace car so I wouldn't have to wait for hours to get back down (which is the true benefit of the expensive ticket), but this meant I also had a glass-bottomed ride.

Bright blue shoes --> many compliments from Chinese and Hong Kong strangers.

You can see the big Buddha far far away in this shot

Once in Ngong Ping, I visited the Po Lin Monastery and was very happy that hadn't been my only reason for the visit.  As it, like many things in Hong Kong, was under construction.

From there, I headed out for the jauntily named "Ngong Ping Fun Walk."  Which was a wonderful hike.  It was a 2.5K loop with about 300 feet of gain that I had entirely to myself until I reached the so-called Wisdom Path.  Despite its engaging name, and hundreds of tourists in Ngong Ping, I appeared to be the only person who wanted to go on the fun walk.  They were missing out.  It was fun.

Gate to Lantau Peak Trail at the entrance to the Wisdom Path

Wisdom Path

I don't think I'd ever seen a Tea Tree before...
At the end of the loop, I could see the Big Buddha through the trees.

Just below the view above was this one:

To close out my day, I hiked up the 240 steps to the base of the Big Buddha.

He was very big.

I added a few more stairs by visiting all the different levels, made an offering, and hoofed it back down and through Ngong Ping where, as promised, I was able to skip the normal car line and go straight to the front to wait for my Crystal Palace gondola to take me back in time for dinner with E.