A Vacation from my Vacation: Back to Hong Kong

Finally the weather in Yangshuo has cooled down. I didn’t believe it could happen but autumn has arrived in Guangxi province. At long last we were able to climb without literally dripping sweat onto our belayers!

I got in a few days of glorious cool weather climbing before packing up and heading back to Hong Kong to meet Matt at the airport. Every time I have flown somewhere to meet Matt, he has always picked me up at the airport even if it involved hours of driving. It was time for me to reciprocate even though I was dreading the hours ahead on trains and buses with the high likelihood of getting lost in a labyrinth of unreadable Chinese signs. As I got on my first of many buses, I kept thinking how it will be worth it to get to meet Matt at the arrivals gate after his 13 hour flight.

In the end, I got lucky. At the Guilin North Railway station I ran into some friends from Yangshuo. Paul Ronan, Patrick Exe and Timb Manuzza are three incredible humans who happened to be starting their two-year expedition to walk the Silk Road on the exact same train I was trying to catch to meet my boyfriend. I felt so honored and lucky to be able to see them off on the trip they have been planning for years. If you are interested in their incredible story follow along on their Instagram or Facebook.

With a little help from the Silk Walk Expedition Team I made it to Hong Kong easily. I navigated the public transit system (called the MTR) to find my AirBNB, which was hidden in an old industrial building in a part of town that is currently being revitalized. If I didn’t have pictures of the building from my AirBNB host I would have thought I was very lost in a seriously sketchy place. Skeptically, I entered the battered industrial elevator and thankfully ended up in a cozy, but surprisingly spacious apartment. Exhausted I fell into a blissfully soft bed. If you have ever spent a night in China, you will know that they pretty much sleep on wood planks. By comparison the AirBNB bed was heaven for my soft Western bones.

The next day I got to spend some time exploring the city before heading to the airport to meet Matt! Probably one of the most exciting things in life is finally finding that familiar face in the midst of a crowded airport.

For our first day together in the big city, Matt and I set out on an urban climbing adventure. I had my sights set on climbing Lion Rock, which has a reputation as a great multi-pitch spot in Hong Kong. The approach involved getting on the MTR, making three train transfers and then catching a taxi to the trailhead at Lion Rock Park. Once the public transit section was completed, Matt and I hiked uphill for about an hour through a gorgeous forested park. While it was definitely not a wilderness experience, it was still beautiful.

I am now going to start adding a lot of photos by Matt because he takes beautiful pictures and I always forget to take my camera out. Follow his blog here.

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Panorama of Lion Rock and Kowloon. Photo by Matt.

We made it to the base of our climb and scampered up a grid bolted classic 5.9 called Gweilo. I really hadn’t expected to find granite multi-pitch in the middle of one of the biggest cities on earth, but here it is. Maybe not the best climbing I have ever done with Squamish and the High Sierra under my belt, but the view was spectacular. Matt and I laughed the whole way up the route about the novelty of climbing above the city skyscrapers.

 

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Beautiful photo by the talented Matt!

We topped out our climb amidst tourists and hikers at the top of Lion Rock and got to enjoy the view for a few moments.

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Photo by Matt

After some simul-rapelling shenanigans involving pendulums and vertical bush-swacking, we made it back to the base and picked out another route. I think we mostly climbed a route called Austrian Staircase, which is supposed to go at 5.10. A little dehydrated and tired, we might have gotten a bit off-route, but topped out again after some hard and off balanced climbing.

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The photographer.
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And the photo.

As the sun set over the city we hiked down to catch a taxi back to the MTR station. Our day finished with Singha beer and delicious Thai noodles at a local food court near our AirBNB.

The following morning we set off for Cheung Chau island. After a ferry ride from the Hong Kong central MTR station, we arrived at our beachfront apartment. The afternoon was spent reading books and resting with dinner at a Japanese restaurant by the pier.

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Cheung Chau at night. Photo by Matt.

Our last day in Hong Kong was spent exploring a district called Tsim Sa Tsui. We walked through Kowloon park and had dim sum for lunch.

Since both Matt and I are pretty bad at the whole going-shopping-in-the-big-city thing, we opted to check out the Space Museum, which was unfortunately closed for construction, but was showing a variety of Chinese movies. We sat down in the blissful air conditioning to experience Chinese cinema and it was….. weird. Things I learned from the experience: 1) Chinese music and therefore Chinese movie soundtracks are stuck in the era of the power ballad 2) There were some serious human rights issues for factory workers and 3) No matter what country you are in, movie scenes with anything medical happening are guaranteed to be ridiculous. I have seen so many seriously terrible and unnecessary chest compressions, it’s not even funny anymore.

Following our Chinese cinema experience we walked around the Tsim Sa Sui promenade for sunset.

Before catching the ferry back to Cheung Chau we made sure to stop by a grocery store to pick up some treats for ourselves and friends back in Yangshuo including parmesean, Mac n’ Cheese, granola, wine that actually tastes good and real New Mexico salsa. I almost died of happiness the moment I saw the 505 salsa label! Back on the island, Matt and I feasted on expat-made pizza and wine.

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Cheung Chau pier. Photo by Matt.

The next morning we began the epic journey back to Yangshuo. We started the day with a ferry ride, then transitioned to the MTR, which we took all the way to the border with mainland China. From there we walked over a river on a skybridge to Chinese customs. From customs we navigated the Shenzhen public transit system to the Shenzhen North Railway station where Matt waited in line to pick up the tickets we booked online. Finally, we boarded the bullet train to Guilin. But the journey wasn’t over after our 3 hour train ride. From the Guilin North Railway station, we had to catch a city bus to the Guilin South Bus Terminal. We crammed onto the bus with our oversize backpacks full of climbing gear like giants among the Chinese commuters who were already packed in the bus like sardines. Thankfully, Matt’s year living in Japan and similarity of Japanese and Chinese characters allowed him to read the Chinese characters well enough to get off the bus at the right stop. At the bus station we managed to figure out how to get a bus to Yangshuo in some very broken Chinese and English on both sides of the conversation. I thought our troubles were over, but the crux was still to come. As the bus rolled into Yangshuo we were swarmed by motorbike drivers and private car taxis trying to sell extremely overpriced rides. Wearing a big backpack and having white skin pretty much puts a big target on your forehead. We took refuge inside a hotel lobby and the magnificent Brandy Barnes came to our rescue with a scooter ride to the apartment. Back at the apartment we were so tired, the Chinese bed was actually pretty comfortable. Once again, China, you have delivered on the promise of a wild ride.

Now we are back in Yangshuo for climbing season!

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