LSU Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing & Promotions Craig Pintens traveled to Hong Kong on Monday, Jan. 31, with the Tiger Girls, Golden Girls and Mike the Tiger. The LSU Spirit squads were invited to the 2011 Chinese New Year celebration as part of the region's Cathay Pacific International New Year Night Parade on Thursday, Feb. 3.
Updated Feb. 5, 8:59 a.m. (10:59 p.m. HKT)
Our last day in Hong Kong was another busy one. We left our hotel this morning to head back to Tai Po Lam Tsuen for two performances. To give a little more background on these performances, it is at the Well-Wishing Festival International. One of the traditions at the festival is to write a wish on a piece of paper attached to an orange and throw it into a tree.
Mike the Tiger spotted a gong at the Festival and fitting with our Gong Show theme, started our day right. The Golden Girls or GGs as the coaches seem to call them and the Tiger Girls or TGs again put on an amazing performance that entertained the crowd. The stage was reinforced today as our dancing yesterday on a shaky stage wasn't the safest.
Mike the Tiger performed his Thriller routine and also Quick Change. The Quick Change routine didn't go as well as planned as Mike's costume came off halfway through the performance. It was an unique experience to see the Golden Girls dance to canned music and for the last routine they all danced together in the same uniforms. They are all very talented dancers and most of them have been dancing their whole lives.
Remember Tim LaTour, the alum we told you about yesterday? He actually put together a video of yesterday's performance and posted it below. Here it is for your enjoyment. Thanks a lot Tim as our flipcam is still AWOL in Hong Kong somewhere.
From Tai Po we took another long bus trip to Lantau Island, a very mountainous area famous for the Giant Buddha Statue. We took cable cars up to the village of Ngong Ping which had a nice shopping area for souvenirs and some dining. The cable cars provided excellent views of the mountains as they sat up to eight people in each car.
The Po Lin Monastery is also located here as well as the giant Buddha statue. There are 268 steps to get up to the statue, so needless to say legs can get a little tired on the way up.
After walking around we took a bus back down, which was on a very winding and narrow road. I was at the back of the bus and there were unconfirmed reports of cookies being tossed as the bus ride was not for the feint of heart.
The bus brought us back to the hotel and those who wanted to head to the market one last time had ten minutes to go upstairs and get ready. I opted to stay at the hotel and write this blog and try and pack everything up as we leave at 6 A.M. tomorrow morning. Our flight is at 9:30 A.M. and through the magic of air travel and time zones we somehow arrive in New York at 12:10 P.M.
We have a long layover in New York until 8:40 P.M. Actually I used the incorrect pronoun there as "they" have a layover in New York. I purchased a flight back at 2:35 P.M. that lands in New Orleans at 5:00 P.M. As a lifelong Packers fan, I need to be back to watch the Super Bowl. I am sure all the LSU fans can relate to not wanting to miss your favorite team play in the biggest game of them all.
It has been an incredible trip. The Hong Kong Tourism Board does everything first-class and has treated us very well. We owe Diana Budiman and Quinn Doan a debt of gratitude for all their hard work. Our tour guide, host and man of the people Raymond was unstoppable. Everybody loves Raymond and if you ever come to Hong Kong you must insist on Raymond as he gets it done.
Finally, the Golden Girls, Tiger Girls and even Mike represented LSU, the state of Louisiana and the United States extremely well. We were the first university dancers they have invited here and the bar was set so high, it will be impossible for anyone to match it.
Updated Feb. 4, 10:03 a.m. (12:03 a.m. HKT on Feb. 5)
Today everyone was able to sleep in a little bit later than we have since we arrived. The Tiger Girls and Golden Girls practiced in a foyer outside the hotel this morning at about 10:15, which drew a crowd. It was our version of an open practice for the people of Hong Kong.
We departed at 12:30 P.M. for Tai Po Lam Tsuen where all the participants in the parade last night performed for twenty minutes each. Tai Po Lam Tsuen is a village in a mountainous region about 45 minutes north of our hotel. We arrived early for our performance and were housed in an abandoned school house. The Dansaq Y Galas Del Peru, an indigenous dance group from the Andes in Peru was also waiting during the same time and we took a lot of pictures with them.
We were given crackers as a snack and they tasted a little fishy, which they were since they were dusted with fish rather than salt. Our performance was outstanding and received a lot of positive feedback. The stage was not really prepared for a lot of the moves we had and might have needed some reinforcement. Mike the Tiger continued to steal the show, as he performed his Thriller routine, which brought down the house and followed it with Quick Change.
We would love to show you video of the performance, however the flip cam we had been using somehow disappeared today as it slipped out of the carrying case it was in. Somebody in Hong Kong has a lifetime of memories just waiting for them by plugging into a USB port. At the site there is the Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees. You are supposed to use one wish and it will come true. Needless to say, the person who dropped the flipcam used her one wish that we find the camera.
At the performance today we met up with two LSU grads, Tim and Cindy Lateur who live in Hong Kong and their daughters Lily and Violette. We posed for pictures with them and hopefully brought LSU spirit to their family.
We departed on the bus and were on our own for dinner. We left again tonight to go on a boat cruise in Victoria Harbor and view the Fireworks for the Chinese New Year. There were the standard oooohs and ahhhhhs that come with fireworks and somehow our boat was playing music that synced perfectly that the grand finale music was Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
After the fireworks, it was a mad dash to get back to our destination with the other hundreds of boats in the harbor. After we arrived back to the bus, our host Raymond who has been absolutely amazing took the Tiger Girls and Golden Girls to the Market before we called it a night.
Tomorrow will be another full day as we have two performances and then will depart for Lantau Island where we will visit the giant Buddha statute.
Updated Feb. 3, 11:20 a.m. (1:20 a.m. HKT on Feb. 4)
Today was the busiest day we've had so far and by the end of the Chinese New Year Celebration, everyone was exhausted and ready for bed.
The day started bright and early as we departed for an island tour at 8:45 A.M. Our excellent tour guide Raymond led us around the island and had some interesting facts. 95% of Hong Kong lives in apartments and only the wealthiest 5% live in houses as it is very expensive. These houses are typically built on the mountains and these are the people that have cars, yachts and helicopters to get different places.
Our first stop today was the Temple Street Market, which consisted of a number of flea market-style stores. There were many purchases made, so if you are somebody who thinks you deserve a gift, look for some trinkets or even a Gucci purse. Another popular gift was having your name written in Chinese. Many of these were paid for before we left and we were told they would be delivered to the hotel tonight. I have to admit I thought those who purchased would never see them, but Raymond was all over it and they were here when we arrived. He really is the host with the most.
From there we departed to a harbor area where we split up as Roy King, Pauline Zernott, Eric Melley and I went to the welcome luncheon hosted by Cathay Pacific. The rest of the travel party took a boat tour and had a Dim Sun lunch at Tine Yi Restaurant, which is at the peak of a mountain. Apparently the view was incredible and most everyone at least tried some interesting new foods, including a dessert made out of red beans and coconut.
The luncheon was very interesting as the various leaders of the groups and media attended. Cathay Pacific is a very strong partner of the parade and there were the typical speeches made. However instead of the standard chicken dinner in the United States we were treated to a seven-course meal. I am a very picky eater, but made a point to at least try every food and found I liked most of it, particularly the corn and chicken soup. My mastery of chopsticks leaves a lot to be desired, but quitters never win and in this case they starve. We also exchanged gifts with the hosts, giving them LSU paraphernalia. The highlight had to be having our picture taken with the official mascot.
It was a very quick turnaround at the hotel as we arrived and everyone went upstairs to gather their costumes for the parade this evening. We left for the parade at just after 3 P.M. and arrived at 3:30 P.M. The actual parade did not begin until 8:00 P.M., so we were at the Cultural Centre almost four hours prior. We later found out this is because the roads are shut down for the parade and as we soon found out for good reason.
With some time before we started, Tom Harlukowicz and myself walked down the street and saw the barriers being set up and people beginning to pile in. We had dinner at a restaurant called McLovin's, which in our minds was named after the character in Superbad, but since there was no mention of McLovin or his Hawaii driver's license anywhere on the walls, the Irish motif and menu led us to believe it was an Irish Pub.
As we made our way back we realized the magnitude of the parade. There were people everywhere and in the staging area inside the Cultural Center, it was as referenced below, a Gong Show. There were performers practicing in any place they could find space, making costume adjustments, eating, sleeping.
As the Golden Girls and Tiger Girls left with the coaches to go to the staging area, there was one key component who flew in for the occasion that had yet to make a public appearance in Hong Kong. Mike the Tiger finally emerged from the 4th floor and made his way onto a stage where a lot of the performers were still seated. He immediately stole the show as only Mike can, pitting one side of the stage against the other. It ended with Mike leaving an the other group from the United States, John Burroughs Powerhouse chanting L-S-U.
Mike is now an international superstar. He must have taken at least 40-50 photographs before the parade even started, including one with an Auburn grad. She was very gracious and definitely knew her football as she thought we were going to be the team to beat in the West this season.
We met the group after they put on their first two performances at the two main stage areas. If you can imagine a golf course, they had portable stands in between each performance area at the beginning. We were unable to watch these two performances, so we stood with Mike and a few members of the travel party to greet them after the performance where we would march through the streets of Hong Kong.
It was an amazing experience. Imagine the march down Victory Hill prior to Saturday Night in Death Valley and now extend that along a parade route that spans about a mile to mile and half (.pdf) and you have the craziness that is the Cathay Pacific Chinese New Year Parade. At some points there seemed to be 20-30 people deep and the flashbulbs were blinding. Here is a small taste of what it was like.
We stopped two other times to perform. Wanting to get video, I actually jumped ahead and was able to find a skateboard half-pipe which I crawled into in Franzesque-like fashion and tried to shoot with the flipcam. Unfortunately, it isn't wide angle, but this will give you an idea of the performance:
After the performance we took a ferry ride to our bus as traffic was still shut down. Everyone is exhausted. There is a practice tomorrow morning before we depart for performance and go on a boat cruise tomorrow night. Mike the Tiger has his Thriller performance planned for tomorrow and based on how many Michael Jackson advertisements we saw today, Mike might get offered some big bucks by a Hong Kong agent. We'll make sure to flipcam it.
The year of the Rabbit is upon us and since we were invited a year after the Year of Mike, I guess it means South Dakota State will be here next year.
Until tomorrow, Gong Hay Fat Choy.
Updated Feb. 2, 11:04 a.m. (1:04 a.m. HKT on Feb. 3)
Everyone woke up today well-rested after spending almost an entire day traveling. For whatever reason, my hotel room doesn't have a clock. In a quick survey, it seems to be about 50 percent of rooms with an alarm clock.
Breakfast was on your own this morning, so many of the girls stuck pretty close to the hotel and either ate some of the food they packed, ordered room service or went to either McDonald's or Burger King. I took a walk this morning to a market down the street. It wasn't as crowded as last night, but it was surreal. There was all sorts of meat hanging from hooks, fresh fruit, whole fish on tables, sweaters, Chinese New Year decorations -- and a lot of shouting. We took some video of it this afternoon and at the end of the trip will have to work on compiling it.
The bus left for the first of two dress rehearsals at 11:45 a.m. HKT. We arrived to see the end of the John Burroughs Powerhouse performance, which is the other group from the United States. They are performing some Journey songs and are very talented. Here is a link to an old performance of theirs.
The dress rehearsal experience was a lot like the practice day before an NCAA Basketball Tournament. It is free to watch the performers rehearse and we drew a nice crowd. Meanwhile, crews were putting the finishing touches on the staging and seating areas. The parade lasts two hours and we stop 5-6 times for performances. The LSU performance is a minute and thirty seconds. The Golden Girls begin, followed by the Tiger Girls and then a combined performance. It is an fascinating dynamic to watch as they have never performed together. In between performances they will march to the next staging area to the strains of the Golden Band from Tigerland. The Tiger Girls don't usually march, so there is definitely some amazing collaboration between the coaching staffs.
There was some early drama with the producer of the parade who wanted to change our music as another group is also using Lady Gaga's "Pokerface". I offered to be the angry American if necessary and demand we get top billing, but my services weren't needed as our coaches explained we couldn't change anything this late. After our dress rehearsal, Michelle Douglas from the Tiger Girls, Jessica Baer from the Golden Girls and Pauline Zernott our Head Spirit Squad Coach were interviewed by Hong Kong cable television. They then filmed the girls for a spot on television which is captured below.
As we were leaving, a man from Alabama gave us our first "Geaux Tigers" of the trip. Needless to say we didn't return the favor with a cry of Roll Tide or War Eagle. We stopped to take a group picture in front of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and had about 10-15 cameras that needed to snap pictures. This attracted a group of random people with their cellphone cameras who just started snapping pictures also; this briefly made the girls feel as if the paparazzi were shooting. If we wouldn't have got back on the bus we might still be there as we were beginning to attract a crowd.
We went back to the hotel for the afternoon and everyone did a variety of things. Most everyone grabbed something to eat, including Roy King, who ate pig intestines. (Yes, that last sentence just happened.) A few caught up on naps before we went back for our final dress rehearsal.
Gong Show is a term we use in the marketing office when there is controlled chaos, things don't go as planned or there is mass confusion. It really is a hard to define term, but after tonight with certainty we might change Gong Show to Cathay Pacific Chinese New Year's Day Parade. It was quite the spectacle, as there were a variety of performers from people with instruments, jockeys riding imaginary horses, miniature rabbits with their own carrots, Brazilian dancers wearing Brazilian-style bathing suits, crazy drummers and other eccentricities.
Mike the Tiger did not suit up today for the dress rehearsal, as he was too busy celebrating the last day of the Year of the Tiger. Tomorrow Mike will have his own personal gong show when he celebrates being Mike in the Year of the Rabbit. We'll have to see how he is received as rabbit imagery is everywhere.
Tonight the first thing we did when we got back to the hotel was check out National Signing Day and tomorrow morning we'll check out LSU Basketball before heading out on a tour of the Island. The parade is tomorrow night and based on tonight's preview, it will set the bar pretty high on the Gong Show scale.
Your Gong Show Host,
Chuck Barris (Craig Pintens)
Updated Feb. 1, 11:03 a.m. CT (1:03 a.m. HKT on Feb. 2)
We have arrived in Hong Kong after a very long day of travel. Our trip began at 2:30 a.m. CT from LSU's campus as we bussed to New Orleans. The majority of the travel party didn't go to bed on Sunday night, but stayed up until our departure time. The bus ride to New Orleans was rather uneventful and we arrived in New Orleans with plenty of time to spare for our 6 a.m. CT flight to New York.
Several members of our 40-person travel party caught an hour or so of sleep on the flight to New York, which looking back seems like it happened last week. We had to gather our luggage in New York, as we were flying Cathay Pacific Airlines -- the sponsor of the parade we are participating in -- to Hong Kong. We had to switch terminals, so we were quite the purple and gold force going through the airport. A lot of people wanted to know who we were and where we were going.
We had plenty of time before our flight and most ate lunch and prepared for the almost 16-hour flight, with a lot of people getting in last-minute phone calls before leaving the States for Hong Kong. Everyone seemed to have a different philosophy as to how to combat the 14-hour time difference and 16-hour flight. Some planned on sleeping for the first half, some as much as possible, others taking brief naps.
The flight itself was rather uneventful, just really long. Each seat had its own entertainment system with 40-50 movies available, hundreds of CD's, games and one of the coolest innovations, a flight camera mounted to the bottom of the plane. Of course this only provided five minutes of excitement as you watched the ground disappear below and reappear on landing.
The other 15 hours and 45 minutes, I alternated between reading, knocking out three and half movies (The Other Guys, The Town, The Big Lebowski, and most of 12 Angry Men), sleeping, eating and walking around aimlessly in the cabin. The cabin was pretty large, considering I was in Row 63. (LSU Athletics Spirit Team Coordinator) Pauline Zernott's television was broken, so she only slept and ate. If she isn't the most well-rested of the group we will have some issues.
Once we deplaned there were delegates from the Hong Kong Tourism Board with signs greeting Louisiana State University. We went through customs quickly and departed on a 30 minute bus ride to our hotel, which seemed like child's play compared to our brutal travel schedule to that point. We passed through the Port of Hong Kong, which was impressive. It makes New York's port look very tiny. The cranes seemed to stretch for miles and, in fact, they do according to this website. Needless to say, the skyline was impressive.
We arrived at the hotel around 9:30 p.m. Hong Kong time, which is about 7:30 a.m. in Baton Rouge. Almost everyone went to their room to catch up on much needed sleep as tomorrow we will have a dress rehearsal for the Chinese New Year's Day Parade, which is a big deal over here. Everyone in Hong Kong has a couple days off for the celebration. According to the literature in our hotel, in the preceding days you are supposed to take a bath and clean your house. I was just happy to shower after being on a plane for 16 hours.
The hotel and surrounding area is buzzing. We took a walk out around the hotel tonight and there were tens of thousands of people at some sort of market, where literally people are centimeters from each other (it's all metric here). The people have a little more invasion of personal space here, and we were feeling a little claustrophobic. If that is a preview of the days to come, we are in for an interesting couple days.
Tomorrow is Chinese New Year's Eve and we'll have a dress rehearsal with the Golden Girls, Tiger Girls and Mike the Tiger. Everyone is excited to be here and the young ladies and Mike are amazing representatives of LSU.
Catch ya tomorrow,