Maple Falls

Not so few days ago on a rainy morning a bunch of us went to Maple Falls in the forest of Nisene Marks, a beautiful redwood forest near Santa Cruz. It was a 8 mile hike, and unlike most popular trails in the bay the trail was not a loop. The destination was Maple falls and you go back the same way. The fun part of the hike was during the last half mile towards the falls we had to wade through a creek, jump over fallen trees and rocks while crossing the creek several times. Thanks to the rain most of us were already drenched by the time we reached the falls. And the water was still freaking cold. I felt shivers down my spine when I stood below the falls, not just the first time, but every single time. The water was bone chilling cold. It was one of those hikes where you feel really close to the nature. One of my favorite hikes and I hope to go back there sometime soon when it stops raining.

Some pics from our hike

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Hong Kong

I was waiting in the queue for a few mins and when it was my turn I showed my boarding pass to the hostess. She scans it, and the system gave out a weird beep (not the regular beep). She looked into her computer, tore up half the ticket and wrote something. And then she tells me “Sir, you’ve been upgraded to business class. Have a good flight”. I flew first class before but never on an international flight. And this time it was free. So yeah I was super psyched; I thanked her, and hopped my way to my seat and comfortably settled down. In one word the seat was ridiculously comfortable. Okay that’s two words, but seriously… the seat actually turns into a bed. FTW right?

Like most people who have access to a bed at an altitude of 30000 feet, I slept like a log. So I was feeling pretty energetic when I reached Hong Kong. Immigration was a breeze, and on my way out I saw a Hong Kong tourism stall; I picked the brains of a nice lady there figuring out what I can do in 10 hours. Apart from a friend’s suggestions on what I could see this was my only other source of information as I was occupied before the flight and did not get a chance to look things up. I checked in my luggage in the airport storage facility and and on way out picked up a map and 700 HKD.

I did not have a working sim in this country. There goes Google’s turn-by-turn navigation out the window. No sim also means I can’t use offline maps as well. Not that I had the foresight to download them before hand. So I was stuck to using a map, and if you knew me well you’d know I suck at reading maps. So what was supposed to take me 15 mins in Lantau island, took me an hour before I got to the Peak tram. After waiting for another hour I took the tram and was on my way to the top of peak from where you have a very good view of entire Hong Kong. It was pretty cool, and I was told it was the most popular place around.

Later I went to the ocean front at Lantau island and spent quite sometime near the Observatory wheel. That was the first time I realized people in Hong Kong take a lot of selfies. A lot more than in the other places I have been. From there I took a ferry to Kowloon Island. Over there I first went to Harbour City mall. It was insanely big; so big I got lost twice trying to find my way out. This was the largest shopping mall I had seen, and interestingly it is not in the 100 biggest shopping malls in the world. Near the ocean terminal I saw the sun set between two far off mountains in the horizon. It was beautiful. As the night dawned, so did the lights. One could see the entire Hong Kong skyline from Kowloon and with the lights it was a view to remember. Later in the night there was a laser show coordinated between multiple sky scrappers. Following that there was a 3rd laser show. That was pretty cool… and the theme was ‘Happy New Year’; everyone was welcoming the ‘Year of the Monkey’.

I really liked Hong Kong. This place had character. From gangs of people practicing Hip Hop, to street singers amazing rendition of western songs, good weather, paintings, tourism, marketing, brands (they have everything), cleanliness, scenic beauty, bubble tea, good coffee (I tried Pacific Coffee and there Cappuccino was better than what they serve at Starbucks), fun tourists (I ran into a couple from Amsterdam and from them I got hear how to do a Euro trip and lot of fun stories in their travel. They looked like they where in their early 30s and have already visited over 40 countries), friendly people; friendly and smiling even when they did not understand what I was saying; I had random strangers come up to me and ask to take my pictures when I was trying to take selfies. In a place where selfies are the norm, this is pretty friendly don’t you think? Well it is not all perfect though. I did have a problem finding good food. I eat white meat, and am not a big sea food fan. So had to settle with Burger King and McD. Totally hated it, but I guess that’s what happens when you have dietary restrictions. Overall I am super glad I did this, as the layover was by choice. And I would totally do it again. This time hopefully I stay for more than a day, and get a chance to checkout the night life as well.

Here are some pictures that I took. Before you see them, these pictures do not come close to what an exhilarating experience it had been seeing those large structures, and vast expansion of pacific in front of me. Adding to that my photography skills are amateurish, and the Nexus 6 ain’t a Hulk when it comes to taking smashing pics. So bear with it, but it should give you a fair idea of how beautiful the city is…

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