Kirkwood has just opened 5 days prior and didn't have a huge base, but had enough to ski on. It's just that all the creeks were not coverd, so some places had difficult crossings.
Arturo suggested that we go for a day trip given that we had to get our epic passes for the upcoming Europe trip. The fact that they had 19" forecast didn't hurt either. Sadly, this turned into only 7" the rest being rain. Still 7" is better than nothing :)
chamoix was dicy at the bottom
still a few rivers
the wall looked enticing, but was only open to ski patrol
hopeful people, like me, but it didn't open
the drain was bad
more stream crossings
And that was it for the day. Not my best day at kirkwood obviously, but a good enough day for early season. Tnanks to Arturo and Louis for getting us there.
While in San Bernandino for Dreamstate Socal, I had a bit of time the 2nd day, and went to check out the local train museum. There is still a train station there with a bit of traffic, but the train station is nothing like what it used to be many years back.
The museum does a good job showing those olden days:
I elected to miss Dreamstate Socal last year to spend time with family, but I figured I'd give it a try this year.
I was totally not going to be driving to or from LA during thanksgiving. Flying southwest to a nearby Ontario airport was actually a decent option, but I elected to fly my own butt there and fly directly to San Bernandino's now defunct military airport, which therefore has a very nice long runway as well as a great FBO (folks in charge of transient traffic, parking and refueling).
From San Bernandino's airport, it was a short lyft ride to the crappy hotel I ended up at but was walking distance to the venue (I figured it would be better to avoid driving and parking issues even if in the end it wouldn't have been too much a problem).
I got a VIP ticket, so getting in wasn't too bad. I did get a puzzled security person when he saw all my electronics to run my shirt and pants, but in the end, he let me in nonetheless. The main issue was the poor information on where around the (big) block, the entrance was located. The first night, a lot of people (myself included) walked around for 15mn around in search of the entrance.
my shirt and pants worked fine those 2 days
Once in, they did a good job with the stages, albeit they were a bit small compared to the number of tickets sold. Even with a VIP ticket, I just couldn't get in an enclosed stage with limited capacity on the 2nd day.
The Lineup was solid...
the VIP area had a nice light tree
I think I fit right at home, there :)
they tried to sell me a new pair, but I was already equipped :)
DJ Tech equipment:
Pictures with people:
thankfully I wasn't the only person lit up, I found some 'colleagues' :)
Day #1 DJs:
Hi Armin! :)
hard to get pictures where you can actually see them :)
PvD was there to finish the night
almost rare to see him smile like this :)
Day #1 Video highlights:
After a good first night, I walked back to my crappy hotel (really motel quality) for some well deserved sleep and rest. I then came back the next day around 18:00 for round two:
I was going to San Bernandino to attend Dreamstate Socal over Thanksgiving.
I was totally not going to be driving to or from LA during thanksgiving. Flying southwest to a nearby Ontario airport was actually a decent option, but I elected to fly my own butt there and fly directly to San Bernandino's now defunct military airport, which therefore has a very nice long runway as well as a great FBO (seriously, awesome FBO, I'm hoping they get enough traffic and customers to sustain themselves, given that San Bernandino is otherwise not really a closeby airport for LA).
It did cost about 2x more to fly my own butt there than flying Southwest at last minute rates, but eh, I got to a closer airport, and I got to leave on my own schedule for both legs :)
The flight there was definitely my best flight to Socal where I got to fly over all 3 of Mohave Spaceport, Edwards Airforce Base (where the space shuttle could land, and X planes are tested), and the unassuming Victorville which has a great collection in its airliner graveyard.
fly by Moffett
I don't think it was LA smog, I avoided the LA Basin
those plane bodies were stripped for parts/skin
A cool little racetrack and dragrace strip nearby:
that got me excited :)
Then I made it to Edwards, which is usually closed airspace, but was open during thanksgiving:
the runways on the lakebed are my favourite part
Left, Center, Right, really? :)
Then, I made it to Victorvillle, which I circled once at lower altitude to picture all of the many planes parked there:
southest planes having fun :)
I then finished my flight to San Bernandino, arrived a bit late, but it was well worth it :)
sadly the airport is pretty deserted
The flight back was less scenic, the weather got worse (low-ish overcast and rain) as I got closer to Palo Alto. Got to land on runway 13, and no one else was flying with that low overcast and bad weather:
There were 3 in the area I was visiting that night. One was closed, the other one had a couple of cats walking around while being more of a café serving lots of food and drink options, and the 3rd one was more of the Japanse kind of cat café, but with fewer cats that were awake:
One evening in Hong Kong we had time for a somewhat better dinner. I got a recommendation for Michelin rated Ming Court, and we took their full tasting menu which was a mix of Eastern and Western fares. While it didn't top some of the similar tasting menus we've had elsewhere, they had an interesting mix of things that we hadn't tried elsewhere.
The presentation sure was nice:
Across from the Science Museum, was an even better museum of history. It starts at prehistoric times, all the way to current times, although by the time you get to China re-unification times, the version of history is a bit more "fluid".
They have a festival where people would climb a tower of buns that was designed to ward off bad spirits or bad luck:
The museum was quite well done, and definitely is worth 3-4H at least. Sadly the first time we only had 1h45 because we were told by someone in the Science Museum that 1h would do it. The only part that wasn't a bit weird was the reunification with china part, and how history got a bit fuzzy from that point on, which I guess is not that surprising...
The Hong Kong Science Museum, just across from the History Museum, is a pretty good museum too, although if time is limited, the History Museum is a better bet. Still, they have a great multi floor ball machine:
I'm not keen on going to China for a variety of reasons, and Hong Kong was still different enough from China, that I was willing to go (by the way, it's only one country, 2 systems for 50 years, after that Hong Kong will alledgely be China 100%).
Because our flight to Brisbane went back through Hong Kong, I figured it would be a good idea to stop for a few days. We first went 2 days to Macau old town and New Town/Casinos, and then we spent 3.5 days in Hong Kong before going home.
Qantas has stupid carry on policies, but nice seats in business
the plane wasn't exactly full
looked smoggy as soon as we arrived
the new airport area is still being built/developed
After arriving at night from Macau, the next morning we started next to our hotel in Koolong:
we checked out the nearby bird park
We then took a cab to Yuen Po Street, Bird Garden:
mostly men, bring their birds to 'socialize'
more bird food
and yet more bird food
I found one that escaped, it became my friend for a while :)
Nearby was the flower market:
We then walked around a bit:
many families seem to use low paid indonesian girls who get the day off on sundays, so they just hang around in groups to socialize
Next (not on my tour, but I noticed a sign for it), was weird fish street, and weird fish indeed:
We celebrated by going to a well known michelin rated dim sum restaurant (Tim Ho Wan)
and went back on our route to check out some street markets:
We then went to Sham Shui Po market in Koolong, which had an interesting collection of street markets and computer/electronic gear:
get your cell phone fixed, in 15mn stat
After the Science and History Museums, we walked towards the pier for some views:
The avenue of the stars is currently closed for renovation, so all the stars were moved in a park:
After sunset, we great views from the pier, and it ends with a light show at 20:00:
It was then time to head back. Jennifer went back to the room to rest, and I checked out the nearby night market:
wired taxi driver
For the 2nd day, we headed towards the peak tram before the crowds got there:
the tram takes a very steep route up
we then took a cab to the very top, which has a nice garden, but otherwise isn't worth the extra hike
a bit smoggy
The peak tram station had some tourist attractions, including a place to take pictures:
After getting back down, we went to the Hong Kong Park and Conservatory which had a very nice walk through aviary:
two big pigeons getting very friendly :)
The rest of the park was worth a quick walk. We then went to the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens next door:
It was then time for a quick pit stop, we had french crepes and walked towards the Central-Mid-Levels Escalators that take you up quite a bit:
we eventually ended up at the Man Mo temple:
We then had a bit of time left over, so we went to Ocean Park, which we was supposed to close at 19:00, but sadly closed at 18:00 instead, making our visit a bit rushed (barely over 2H). Sadly, there were also way too many people despite it being a monday afternoon;
the cable car to the top had way too much of a line, so we took the tunnel train
while we didn't have much time, Jennifer wanted to do one ride, so we did
For our 3rd day, we headed towards Nan Lian Garden, a very pretty garden (although in hindsight, we should have done Che Kung Temple first to avoid the crowds). The garden was quite beautiful, and attached to a temple which was also worth seeing:
Next, we went to Che Kung Temple next door, which was already packed with people by then:
From there, we took a cab towards Sha Tin Park, to rent bikes and do a waterfront ride that was recommended to me. But first, we were sadly told that it was better to not take the bike to the nearby temples, since some unscrupulous locals could try to steal them, or parts of them:
the 10,000 Buddha temple was impressive
long way up
every little statue inside adds up to 10,000 statues
We then went to et our rental bikes, and ride up the river. Views weren't bad, but air was pretty bad to breathe. By the end of the ride, my throat was hurting. Jennifer also thought the whole ride was not the best use of time, and I think she's mostly right:
good luck indeed :)
The Hong Kong Science Park was probably the highlight stop of the ride
they even had a supercharger for all the teslas I had been seeing
Eventually we arrived to the end our our ride, Tai Po Waterfront Park (Tai Mei Tuk was even farther but didn't seem worth going to):
people were flying kites
ok-ish view from the top
We then tried to get into Tsz Shan Monastery, but without an invite we were left at the door, unable to enter:
they had a family of kittens, there
so we used a cab to drive to a few vantage points
in the distance
We then took our cab to get back to the main train station in Tai Wai train station, and train to downtown Hong Kong to go visit the Google office by time square and see Jennifer's friend, Margaret:
Our last day, we were supposed to go see the Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery by the airport, but sadly the cable car closed for maintenance (which happens on semi-irregular intervals it seems). As a result, the only way up was via a long bus or taxi route around. In the end, Jennifer was having enough a good time in the History Museums, that we just spent most of our time there instead.
Since the train to the airport was in the same building than their observation tower we were not able to see the first day, we stopped there on the way out:
this is where we should have gone, but didn't
Flying from Hong Kong back to the US has become a joke. You used to be able to check in your luggage at the Kowloon train station and then just take the train to the gate. What a novel idea. But the US prevented that a while ago. Instead, you now get this:
someone physically stops you from actually reaching the check in counter by asking you for your itinerary. I'm like "err, I don't carry one, I'm going to get my boarding pass" at the counter behind you, and the answer is "you cannot get to this counter and get your boarding pass before going through me"
"has anyone at all been in contact with your luggage since you packed it" this means better not mention if you used a courrier service to get your luggage from the hotel to the airport, because you know, they are preventing the airline from getting your luggage from town to the plane
then you get your boarding pass, go through immigration, then security which takes all your liquids
it took almost 1H between the time we entered the airport to when we were in the lounge (which was not very close either)
and then, before you board the plane, another level of security where they open your carry ons again and steal all your liquids, the ones you got from the secure zone.
In downtown Koolong, before getting on the train
the new train that takes you to the new Hong Kong airport
Jennifer was very keen on checking out the centurion lounge in Hong Kong
I then went to check out the Cathay lounge, which wasn't bad either
Since we were flying through Hong Kong on the way home, so it was a good excuse to stop for a few days, and I figured it would make sense to start with Macau, in this case a full 2 days since one day really didn't seem sufficient after what I had read online.
The good thing is that you can land in Hong Kong and take a direct ferry to Macau without even going though Hong Kong immigration, so that's what we did. We landed in Macau, waited in Hong Kong 1.5h for the next ferry, and they took our luggage from the plane and got it directly on the ferry along with us. It was a bit unnerving since we never got to check that the luggage made it, but it did:
Macau has two piers and 2 ferry companies, Taipa was the closest one to our island
Macau technically uses MOP which no one really seems to want, and readily accepts HKD. They even have ATMs that give you HKD directly
Turbojet is the competing company to Cotai Jet, the one we took back to HKG 2 days later
The next morning, we got up reasonably early due to the time difference, and went to visit old town, starting with A-Ma Temple before the hoards of tourists would show up. Honestly, it's nice to see, but it's far from being one of the best temples we've seen, including those in Hong Kong a few days later.
Sadly, our first cab screwed us over by taking a clearly longer route to the temple, hoping we wouldn't notice, but at the end of the day, we couldn't do much about it, and cabs were still dirt cheap (we paid something like $8 instead of $5 or somesuch). Still, that was annoying...
We then walked a bit deeper in downtown to mostly see buildings peeling off and churches in sad states, or closed:
probably the nicest building, but not visits allowed
Probably the highlight was the food market we found tucked in a corner, not counting stalls that cut still alive fish in pieces and let them slowly die there, heart still beating, instead of just killing them, sadly a pretty cantonese thing to do :(
We eventually got to the old town fort, which was fun enough to see, and then waited for its museum to open at 10:00. It was actually reasonably good, and probably the highlight of old town:
cricket fights were a popular pass-time
Next, were the ruins of St Paul, which were just that, ruins:
From there, we took a cab to Fisherman's Wharf, a nice collection of buildings and shopping arcades and then walked around town a bit:
pollution seems bad
we found a nice portuguese restaurant in old town
The next day, we went to check out the zoo and did a quick side trip to Coloane, which honestly was not really worth it:
an ok temple at the south end, but not worth the trip
fishing village in the background
The zoo was fun, though, especially the young pandas that had been born recently:
saturday morning, all the kids were there
the two babies that had been born the previous year
Sadly, a lot of Macau old town wasn't that nice anymore, it went downhill from what it used to be, maybe due to lack of funds.
As a big contrast of visiting the original Macau and its old towns, we also went to visit the casinos. There are 2 casino areas, one on the north island, and the south island which has the bigger concentration of the two.
It's definitely vegas like, except with casinos that are even bigger (but with very bad signage, so it's hard to get around and find things in some of them).
We stayed at the studio city hotel:
good buffet breakfast
we did the lucky 8 ride
then we did the batman ride
Pictures from higher up on the lucky 8 ride and the Paris Effeil tower:
bridge to china
hotels don't just have swimming pools, they have water parks too :)
The Venetian is huge, maybe 3 times bigger than the vegas one:
The Paris next door was also big:
they had a show projected on the ceiling
oh great, the lock disease spread there too :)
I can't believe they totally cheated and pasted bogus french text even with ISO-8851-1 accents that got turned into '?'
The 2nd Wynn was nice, it had a cable car ride to go inside:
Other misc pictures from south island casinos:
the 2nd MGM
they are building a monorail
We then crossed towards the Sands across the street to go see the monkey show, which was ok enough (sadly the dancing water show was shut down due to some issue:
we climbed up the not quite closed campanile tower for views (lots of stairs)
The north island casinos are older, but some are still interesting. Some have a casino on both islands:
North Island MGMs:
North Island Wynn:
Food was great. The second morning, per recommendation, we tried the buffet breakfast in the Hyatt and it was quite good:
The 2nd evening, we went back to the Hyatt for their very famous and usually booked out buffer dinner. We managed to get a last minute cancellation, which was great:
After that dinner, we went to the ferry towards Hong Kong.