Exploring Hong Kong Prior to the Takeover by China

 Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika

On Friday, May 24, 1996, I set out on a journey to the Far East. Never having been there before, I did not know what to expect. My husband had gone ahead two weeks earlier for business. I was comforted to know that he would be there waiting for me in Hong Kong.

I traveled together with a group of people in my church from Laie, Hawaii. They were all going for the purpose of attending the Hong Kong LDS temple dedication. My husband and I would attend the dedication, but spend the rest of our time away from the group exploring Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Mormon TempleMy daughter dropped me off at the Honolulu airport to pick up a flight on China Airlines. I sat by an older couple and next to the toilet. It was hard for me to rest because of all the passengers making their way to relieve themselves. When I tried to start up a conversation with the elderly man beside me, he told me that he was hard of hearing. I spent the majority of the flight reading my Reader’s Digest and any other reading material I could find. I dozed on and off a couple of times and watched the movie “Sabrina” with Chinese subtitles appearing across the bottom of the screen.

Japanese Squat ToiletThe jet took us to Tokyo, Japan for our first layover. We had flown for eight hours. My first time in Japan, and all I got to see was the airport. We were there for nearly an hour. I located a toilet facility and there were two stalls. One had a conventional toilet, although it was child sized. The other stall had a Japanese toilet, which was just a hole in the floor. You were required to squat down to use it. This was my first experience with this sort of convenience.



I spoke to my husband on the phone and he told me “don’t be scared”, which left me wondering what there was to be scared of. Again, we boarded an airplane and were headed for Taipei, Taiwan, where we would have a longer layover. Right after our take off, we were able to see Mt. Fuji on the right side of the plane. It was very majestic and snow covered. We were served attractively prepared Japanese food, but I ate very little as it smelled unfamiliar. We arrived in Taipei three hours later and we got to know the airport very well.


We gained five hours, but lost a day on our trip. The sky was very dark as we made our final approach into Hong Kong. There was quite a storm, rainy and windy, and there was a great deal of turbulence. I became alarmed and started praying that we would be able to make it. I was sitting by a lady from Hong Kong told me that Hong Kong was one of the hardest airports to land at! She said that we had to land right in the middle of the big city, where there were sky scrapers all around. Just at the time she said that, I looked out the window to see tall buildings, and then the plane suddenly dropped, almost like a roller coaster ride. Then it picked up speed again, and I no longer saw the skyscrapers. I figured we were going to try to make another approach from a different direction.

To be continued……

Ruth Elayne Kongaika was raised in the mainland, USA, and has been living in the South Pacific for the past forty years. She enjoys trying to capture the beauty of the islands through her photography, painting and writing. She has a blog which shares some of her art and favorite subjects at:


email: kongaikr@byuh.edu

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Leave Your Shoes at the Door

Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika

Growing up with four seasons, we almost always kept our shoes (and sometimes socks) on outside and inside the house. Only on the hottest of days during the summer, did we go barefooted. So when our little family relocated to the South Pacific, I was curious to learn that it is customary to leave your shoes on the porch before entering a home. It took me quite a while to remember this tradition, often finding myself as the only one in the group with my shoes still on in the house and then apologizing profusely.

Leave your shoes at the doorIn Hawaii, where we now live, home owners often put little signs at the doors to remind guests to remove their shoes. There may be a little wood or metal rack specifically for storing shoes just outside of the front door. Most locals are aware that tourists may not be educated in this practice, and so in an effort not to offend them, they say “no need”.

My dear Dad came to stay with us for a while in Hawaii. He is of Scottish descent and has lived all his life in a colder climate. You rarely see him with bare feet, even in the house. He has very tender feet and does not even like the feel of sand on them. I did not force him to alter his routine while he stayed with us. My own feet have toughed a bit while living in the islands. Actually, I prefer to go bare footed and can hardly wait to take my shoes off when I have been away.

Then there is my husband, who was raised in the islands before going to school in a cold climate. He still can’t make up his mind whether to leave his shoes on or off, and I discover his shoes in the oddest places throughout the house! He told me that the first time he saw snow he thought it looked fun to run in and attempted it shoeless! He quickly learned that doing so was quite painful.

In the Fiji Islands, where we have visited, there are certain tribes who get the coals in the fire burning, and then show their bravery by walking on them unprotected. I suppose their calloused feet make it much easier, having gone without shoes most of their lives.

Fire Walking Ceremony South PacificIn some other countries (Asia), shoes are removed so as not to tear the straw floor covering. In Japan the word for outside shoes is “dosoku” meaning “soiled feet”. It is perceived as dishonorable when someone enters the home with outdoor shoes on. They have specific indoor shoes available for guests to wear. In some parts of the world

Since we have so many different cultures here in Hawaii, it is good to consider the owner of the home as you enter their abode. A telltale sign would be if there is a pile of shoes or slippers at the front door. That is what I look for when I pay a visit to someone I do not know well. Often I find a pair of attractive shoes that may actually fit me and wonder what would happen if they would notice if I left mine and took theirs (Just kidding)!

Shoes Sign HawaiiIn scripture, it tells of prophets removing their shoes when they are on “holy ground”. The same is expected in some mosques or chapels today. A person’s home should be considered their inner sanctum.  Consideration of a person’s customs and traditions shows respect and honor. It is always good to learn whether you need to take your shoes off at the front door. Aloha!

Ruth Elayne Kongaika was raised in the mainland, USA, and has been living in the South Pacific for the past forty years. She enjoys trying to capture the beauty of the Polynesian islands through her photography, painting and writing. She has a blog which shares some of her art and favorite subjects at:


email: kongaikr@byuh.edu


Yokohama, Japans second largest City

One of the nice things about taking a trip on the spur of the moment, is sometimes you don’t have time to do proper research on your destination, which can result in a lousy trip or a pleasant surprise. This just happened to be the case this time. Yokohama, Japan turned out to be a unexpected but pleasant surprise.

So, the other day when I was given a trip to Haneda, Tokyo International Airport, I assumed that we were staying in Tokyo. We just started flying into Haneda, the main airport serving Tokyo, just a month or so ago, for years we have been flying into Narita International Airport, about 65 kilometers or 40 miles to the east of downtown Tokyo. Now I say I assumed we were staying in Tokyo, because the way everyone was talking was that is where we were going.

Skyline from InterContinental Hotel Yokohama JapanWell on the flight over, I asked the copilot who has been to Haneda, what would he recommend to see for a first timer to Tokyo, he told me we were actually staying in a suburb of Tokyo, Yokohama to the south and it was about a 30 min train ride to Tokyo.

Hmmm, well leaving the airport and headed south upon our arrival, even though it was rainy and dark out I could tell this was a pretty big suburb. It really was not till the this morning when I woke up, looked out the window of the hotel and saw all the high rises that this was more than a suburb.

A quick check on the internet, now I do the research, I found out that Yokohama actually is the second largest city in Japan, I mean with over 3.6 million people, this is more than a suburb. It is about the same size as Los Angeles. Yokohama might be considered to be part of the metropolitan area of Tokyo, the city is actually 30 kilometers or 18 miles from Tokyo center.

Skyline from Yamashita Park,Yokohama JapanExpecting to be in Tokyo and finding myself in Yokohama, I figured I would spend my day exploring the city. Little more research on the internet, I see that Yokohama is located on the southern end of Tokyo Bay, making the city one of the largest ports in Japan, the city has one of the worlds largest China Towns, numerous parks and historical buildings can be found throughout the city.

A little bit of research now and with camera and a city map in hand I was off to spend the day in Yokohama, Japans second largest city.

Have you traveled to Yokohama? Visited other parts of Japan? Do you have any advice or recommendations for our readers?

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