Find Seb’s photo gallery of Hong Kong here.

We’ve talked, planned, yelled with excitement and cried with emotions for this trip. We’ve completely changed our lives – sold our car, left our countries and our homes, and packed our life into 2 backpacks. Now that we’re finally here in Asia, at the beginning of this wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime trip, I can only describe it as: cold. wet. and kinda harder than we expected.

Hong Kong is having an unseasonable cold snap due to a wicked cold front (and probably global warming’s freaky weather patterns). Instead of the pleasant upper 60’s sun we planned for, we flew in yesterday to lower 40’s and rain. When you pack clothes for summer in South East Asia, you don’t usually include fur-lined boots or a puffy coat. Now that’s all I’m dreaming of. We had to layer on about 80% of the items in our backpacks just to make going outside bearable (I’m wearing 5 shirts today). Fortunately, Seb and my brother convinced me to splurge for the high-tech Patagonia rain slicker that I didn’t want to buy and what I thought would be a mere ‘just in case’ item. It’s been the only thing saving me from pneumonia.

Po Lin Buddhist Monastery in the rain. The monks prepare a cheap and filling vegetarian lunch for tourists visiting the Big Buddha.

Po Lin Buddhist Monastery in the rain. The monks prepare a cheap and filling vegetarian lunch for tourists visiting the Big Buddha.

Our AirBnB rental apparently had some talented photographers (and a giant wide-angle lens) for their ad, because what we thought was going to be a small-ish, chic studio apartment is actually a rabbit-cage in a high-rise – and this is coming from someone who lived in teeny Parisian flats for years. Worse than it’s tiny size or the deafening sound of cars zooming along the busy avenue out the single-paned window is the fact that there is no heat, and only a pancake-thin blanket on the bed. We slept fully-clothed last night, shivering in our jeans until the sleeping pills and jet-lag overtook us.

Today we visited the Big Buddha under a torrential downpour which soaked my poorly chosen linen shoes. It made the much-advertised glass gondola ride seem superfluous, as the fog prevented us from seeing the “breathtaking views”. We actually couldn’t even see where the gondola was heading more than 10 feet in front of us.

Tian Tan Buddha, or the Big Buddha just outside Hong Kong city center stands 112 feet tall.

Tian Tan Buddha, or the Big Buddha just outside Hong Kong city center stands 112 feet tall.

Right now, we are sitting in a too-chic-for-backpackers bar in the Wan Chai neighborhood full of wealthy expat banker types in order to use their wifi and warm up a bit before heading back to the rabbit cage. The server keeps looking askance at us in our mismatched multi-layers – we clearly don’t belong. While walking here, Seb admitted what I had been thinking all day: “Well, this trip isn’t starting out exactly how I thought. It’s been a rough couple days.” Between the 23-hour trip, the jet-lag, the unexpected cold, the anti-cozy accommodations and perhaps most poignantly, our deflated excitement, I completely agreed with him.

All that being said, we are still so happy to be here, lumps and all. We’ve made some unforgettable memories already: seeing the mist blow across the giant Buddha’s face at the top of the mountain, eating a vegetarian feast in a brilliantly colored monastery, eyeing the thousand shades of green at the jade hawker’s market, marveling at the cleanliness and order of the Hong Kong metro, meeting Eric, the friendly 7-year old who’s grandfather urged him to practice his English with us, the exhilarating feeling of being out of our element, and all those moments of understanding when we look at each other and know that it’s hard, but we’re so grateful to be here, together.