Musings from a couple of weeks in Hong Kong.
I spent just over 2 weeks in Hong Kong, and must admit that I enjoyed it imensely. Not the cheapest place in the world by any stretch of the imagination, but strangely comforting to be back in somewhere which was seemingly familiar, multi cultural, and relaxed. I think i could happily live here for a while, although that would seem something of a cheat.
Despite the inevitable fact that all 10 people i know in Hong Kong have been elsewhere the entire time I've been here (not stupid, these people), It was also good to catch up with a few familiar faces again. Admittedly I didn't know Kevin, Solene or Jude before I started this trip, but it was great to see old friends again. And also to realise that all TPers are alcoholics, but on the whole great people. Despite the whole fuffy/furry thing.
Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, and in all likliness, even if you don't, is to walk along Nathan Road, on the Eastern side, and make it from the Star Ferry to Jordan without being offered at least half a dozen hostel/hotel rooms, fake rolexs, tailored suits, money changed, drugs of all descriptions and in most incidences several curries and offers of Indian food as well. Some you can easily avoid, some are easy to fob off (i'll buy a fake rolex only if it's spelt with 4 "L"s, for example). And don't even thing about looking foreign (i.e. not Black African or from the Indian subcontinent) and trying to enter Chunking mansions around dinner time if you don't want a curry. It's just not worth it. But that's another story.
Stayed in several different places, partly by choice, partly not. The first place in the Mirador, as previously noted, was just strange and also lacked the facilities it advertised. And only 1 of the 3 nights i was supposed to be there, I actually was. And the oter two weren't by choice. A few nights in Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island followed, until, together with Lun, Ananad and an English girl, Clare, we departed on mass from the Wang Fat hostel, spured by several issues, but mainly the discovery that all 4 of us (plus 2 previous residents) were paying completely different prices for the same dorm room, some a whopping 50% extra. Then ended up in another place in the Mirador, the Cosmic, run by 3 absolutely lovely old ladies, (and most of which was stunningly clean and well equiped, if on the cosy side) but due to the changing size of our group ended up in 3 seperate rooms (and price categories).
Some of the days i spent doing not allot, or just wandering at random. I probably covered every road on the Kowloon peninsula south of the old boundary point (south of the boundary was actually ceeded to the british - and HK Island was fully British as well - whilst the New Territories to the North were only on lease to Britain, despite the fact that the whole colony was returned to the Chinese), and at various times took in the Electronic, Ladies, Fish, Flower, Bird, Night, Jade and Sports markets, as well as the famed Stanley Market on the south end of HK Island, which were dissapointingly small and touristy. Wandered along both coasts of the harbour and into Victoria Pak (Island) and Kowloon Park (guess) and just relaxed.
A long story to remain untold it may be, but I will note in passing that there is definitely something surreal about standing on a market road at 11pm earnestly haggling with the stall owner over the price of a specific vibrator, and trying to counter their prices with getting other stuff chucked in for free. All of which whilst trying to avoid joining the unnamed person wanting said vibrator, collapsed in a heap of laughter on the floor. That's just not good haggling technique.
I just love haggling!
Went Laptop and computer shoping through assorted Computer markets and cities with Jude, although didn't buy in the end and shoe shopping with Clare (it's true that i might need my head examined). Went up the escalators again, just for the heck of it, wandered HKisland on the double decker trams (the only ones in service anywhere in the world), crosed the harbour on some of the other ferry routes and under and over it, including of course, the famous Star Ferry. Which at 2.4 (upper) or 1.7 (lower) dollars a trip, was definitely good value, as was most of HKs stunningly efficient public transport. Sorted out some jabs, went to the botanical gardens, went up to the Hong Kong peak twice (the first was hazy, the second wonderfully clear) using the impressively steep Peak Tram.
Nikki on the Peak tram. Yes, the angle is correct, and thats not even the steepest part
Watched the sympathy of lights a couple of times, wandered with Kevin and Solene, headed out to Lantau island with Nikki to visit the Giant Tian Tan Buddha (the worlds largest outdoors bronze Buddha - good, but not the first or probably last giant Buddha I will see on this trip) and Po Lin Monastery. Also tried miserably to score some HK Rugby 7s tickets for the 2006 tournament in the spring and to get a space on the free Junk ride around the harbour. Oh well, can't win them all. And tried to get my rabies injection, but failed miserably 3 times because (a) it was too long ago i was bitten, so i must be fine or (b) i don't have the offending dog with me (it's a fecking stray in Romania. Why the hell would i have it in Hong Kong). I couldn't even get a possibly out of them, just a straight f*ck off. And as they were less than pleasant about it on all occassions, if i do happen to succumb to rabies in the near-mid future, please can somebody sue the arse off the Hong Kong Airport and HK Island Travel clinic for negligence in my memory. I even had to pay for a "consultancy" to get my jabs,despite the fact i knew what i needed, and my consultancy involved me telling the doctor what i needed for 90seconds and him muttering "ok". If i could get paid about 25gbp for saying ok and listening for 90seconds, i would be a happy chap indeed!
At the Jumbo floating restaurant in Aberdeen
Headed down to Stanley, Deep Water Bay and Aberdeen on the south side of HK Island with Jude, to discover that Stanley Market was actually quite small and touristy, and the fort is now a Chinese military base who don't like stupid British people wandering around it. Just about avoided a long trip through the underground sewage farm, went for lunch on the self proclaimed "most luxurious floating restaurant in the world", Jumbo, in Aberdeen harbour. It was fairly luxurious, I admit, and the food was good if different (we had Dim Sum, which included classics such as Deep Fried Pork Pie - oddly damned tasty - and something which turned out to be faggotts), although the location was strage. Aberdeen, in fairness, is not the most delightful view for such a restaurant, with rows of high and used looking tower blocks, plus concrete overpasses to greet dinners. And it was debatable if we were actually floating or whether the main building (boat) was actually permanently attached to the seabed. Had a drink on the fabulously comfy rooftop bar though.
And visited An An and Jia Jia.
Expensive, sure, but neither of us had actually seen a giant panda before, and the opportunity was too good to turn down. Housed in the Ocean Park amusement park, they are both at peak age and may not have too many years left, which will be a shape, but normal. Typically, An An was out in the enclosure, but sleepy and barely moved except to roll over, whilst Jia Jia was animatingly eating bamboo as if it's life depended on it - in fairness, it probably did - but in a cage out of view, and only visable on TV screens. Oh well, at least i've seen a Panda. Took in the aquariums, shark tanks, bird and butterfly enclosures amongst others (all of which seemed depressingly small in size) and a really funny dinosaur enlcosure as well as a long cable car ride between the two sections and a huge long escalator ride back down. They like escalators in this city, it seems. Took in a trip to a very strange pizza hut (i'm not used to a pizza hut menu including things like Norwegian Salmon and truffles) and had a dim sum breakfast including chicken feet (tasty if boney) which certain other people weren't too impressed with.
I can't help it if they don't move into a useful position to be pictured, can I?!
And of course, spent a night at Happy Valley Races. Happy Valley is a HK institution, and when the Chinese took control back, their first statement to the HK people was to the effect that the horses would keep running. The track is squeezed into HK island, surrounded by tall residentail blocks, but has a great atmosphere, surprisingly cheap beer (including yards of ale) and, best of all, free access aftr a certain time. We got to see the last 4 races, and using my patented greyhound trick of picking a number at random and staying with it all night Each Way, somehow picked a winner and came out a hundred dollars for the good for the night. Can't argue. There was also the odd inevitable night out, wandering around LKF and Kowloon with assorted people, which almost all turned out to be great fun (Lun posseses the great trick of being picked up the most desperate HK girls without having to do anything at all) although a return to our New Years haunt went wrong when we discovered everybody there was at least 50years old, almost ended in a huge punch up after a group of young Brits attempted to steal the only decent girl that Lun found.
Happy Valley Racecourse, and celebrating my winnings with Kevin and Solene
Two weeks or so later, and it's been great fun. And i'll be back as well, but for now it's time to leave again and hit the road. All of the eassorted folks from the last couple of weeks (Andy, Jason, Nikki, Suzanne, Clare, Scott, Lun, Jude, Anand, the Kiwi's and Kevin and Solene amongst others) have left, as people do, to go their own ways (btw, Hi Clare - hope your having fun back home in the wonders of Teddington!) and it's time for me to follow suit.
So, tomorrow, with luck, i go and retrieve my passport from the Vietnamese, hopefully with a shiny new visa sticker (and not a Drugs offence refusal stamp) in it, and then proceed directly (I might even pass go on the way) to.... Shanghai.
Obvious, really, isn't it?!