Hong Kong


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The trip begins with a lesson learned well before getting on the plane: Bear with me just a moment through these introductory remarks. Or page down a couple of paragraphs. Up to you. 1/2005: The trip begins this January morning, five months before departure, when David (my son) and I start out to get our passports taken care of. The reason for writing about this will come clear in just a moment – it is one of the Great Truths of traveling. The first stop is Fiesta (big Mexican store) for passport photos. We get there at 9:45 and learn that the part of the store where they do photos will not open until 10:00. A few moments after 10:00 I hear a girl tell another customer that they opened at once por la mañana (eleven in the morning). I walk over to talk with the manager, who points out that now there is someone behind the counter. I walk back over to learn that the camera is broken. We go to a notario down the street and get some photos. But so far, all I have is some photos at the rip-off price of 2/$10. We’ll see how the rest of the process goes.

Ahhh, the trip begins– I’m on my 5th trip to Southeast Asia and this is the way it is and the way it will be and I’m lucky it didn’t take longer. Photo: Side street

So, a couple of days later Dave and I go to one of the post offices listed as accepting passport applications. When we get there we are told they don’t do that anymore, but they do give us a list of POs that do. Oops, they are on the list. We call and locate a place that will accept applications, but learn that we need checks and cash – no charge card accepted. We go home to pick up the necessary items and head off to the Dallas County service center that accepts applications. When we get there we discover that they also take photos for the same price as we paid. We could have done it all in less than an hour vs. the four+ hours we spent. Oh well, it is a

lot better than wandering around Bangkok trying to get something done. And we got more made in Hong Kong at Chungking Mansion (20 photos for ~$4.50 USD). Besides the time and confusion, I am reminded of how it is dealing with immigration. You need them and they don’t need you and they know it and you are wise to remember it.

HK Entry 1: 5/2005: Very difficult to say with certainty (because of all the changes in time + intl. dateline), but I think we spent about 30 hours in the air or in airports. Slept about 3 hours the entire time. Could I be excited?

Got into Hong Kong yesterday (Friday) - my 7th or 8th trip to HK.

Chungking Mansion, where I thought we might stay, has too many touts & kind of angry looking young men from Africa & Middle East all over the place. Hey Leslie, found one of the Everly Brothers! David got pic. Arcade at Chungking is much better than before. Photo: Pretty good, but not great dim sum place for breakfast, <$2 USD.

Found guesthouse in Mirador Mansion - staying at Cosmic Guesthouse (though nothing cosmic about it). 3 beds in a tiny room. Bathroom is about 3x4 feet with commode & sink & shower all in the same place. Will send pic later. Cost is $220 HK (about $30 US). Hit the streets & right off found good place to eat - Macau Restaurant. Had curry chicken & Macau-style pork & rice. Good, but too expensive. Coffee iced was very good & strong.

Jeff & I hiked way up Nathan Road to market area in the rain. Felt good for awhile; then just felt wet. Got back to GH about 7:30, on to a random restaurant for a mediocre dinner, and back to GH & passed out. Woke at 0500. Yikes! But much refreshed. Breakfast was fast food dim sum (Chui Chau roll, bun, coke) & off we went to the peak - man in coffee shop where I am now is putting the mal do ojo on me for taking too long on this computer.

Remember, when you travel with Tabasco, you always travel 1st class.

HK Entry 2: This entry for Sunday & Monday (I think - since the plane ride I have been pretty much disconnected from time).
 
When we were last on-line it was from a coffee shop at the top of Hong Kong Peak. The Peak was wonderful - as always. Took the walk around - beautiful, cool, fecund-like. Moss, ferns, and from the trail, looking down on the tops of trees - and then a sea of buildings. From the Peak one can truly see how big HK is and how extensive the harbor. Actually, only part of HK is visible from this vantage.

Star Ferry also wonderful as always. Rode Twinkling Star, Night Star, etc. What could be finer than the Star Ferry? About $0.25 US for the 7-12 minute ride. The harbor is like magic - boats of every size & type. Photo: Harbor, Star Ferry

Went back to Ladies Market in the afternoon and bought a backpack for $120 HK (~$15 US). I started the trip with a wheeled duffle bag that my neighbor, Jay (Hi Jay) threw away, but it is awkward & so now I too will discard it - though few things are really thrown away in HK. Ladies Market is about 5 blocks of 3 streets blocked from traffic. One of the women at the mkt told Jeff re his sunglasses, "You old-fashioned," then she & her friend went into gales of laughter. He now has a pair Oakleys - sort of. This area has more people on the streets (it was Sunday) than anywhere I've ever been. Truly seas of people. Wonderful experience.

Had more mango drinks and 2 big sticks of chicken satay at the market for total $16 HK (~$2 US). Alright!

Of course everywhere in HK is crowded. We've been paying atten

tion to how people walk through these huge crowds and so far, this how it seems: People get into streams; nobody tries to get assertive or pushy; usually eye contact is avoided, though most people are pleasant (maybe a little surprised) when contact made & acknowledged. Incredible to be in so many people & never get jostled. There seems to be a universal agreement on moving amongst one another & it is a marvel to be in this sea of people. This does not hold completely true in the lower Tsim Sha Tsui (more touristed area), though, tourists are not necesarily all the problem - many many immigrants, temporary workers & foreign merchants in this area around Chungking Mansion - where there is a constant litany of "Watch, copy? "Tailor?" And so on - endless touting or, as they say here, hawking. It gets a little tiresome after a few days.

The way Leslie & I always traveled & the way I'm traveling with David & Jeff is less tourist attraction & more time on the streets - especially the back ones. Everything is an adventure - buying a plug adapter, whatever. Running errands in a strange place - It's also about learning new things, like how to ride the bus or subway, whatever. Mainly, just making the scene.

Last night we ate at a halal restaurant in the back of Chungking - 2 curries, samosas (Hey Chuck M. - mighty fine eats back here). Photo:

David at Shalimar Restaurant in back of Chungking Mansion

Jeff & I got started on talking about Vietnam last night. Strange to have conversation like this with David around. Brutal stuff - lots of death (how this man & that was killed) & beneath that, hope. Many dreams last night - but not about war: teaching (I said to my students, now I'm going to tell you how it really works ...) & parasites (wondering are they roundworms or flukes & then one flattened out & then the others followed suit - flukes).

Tomorrow will pick up visas for Vietnam. Young man working was a UPenn grad. Odd conversation.

Hong Kong: Great food, many people, lotsa shopping.

HK Entry 3: I'm not very organized with this travelogue. Too busy traveling I guess. Everything is a rich blur of experience & impressions - difficult to go too far back and say what happened. I also realized I'm writing from my own experience & past without referencing for readers. So, I'll try to bring things into better focus.

Where we

are staying is in the Tsim Sha Tsui area of the Kowloon Peninsula across the harbor from Hong Kong Island. TST is the main tourist area & is split by Nathan Road. The 1st 20 or so blocks are lined with jewelry, camera, clothing, & Chinese arts & crafts stores. Side streets have many restaurants. Rich mix of people here - vast majority (90+%) are Chinese, though. At end of peninsula are landmarks like Star Ferry, Peninsula Hotel (hyper-expensive - Rolls Royce pick up at airport) & now a museum & cultural center. Photo: We're ON the bus

We've been going to Island 1-2 x day: Catch ferry ($2.2 HK dollar/ ~ $.34 US) for 10 minute ride across deep water harbor with boats & ships every description & size passing by. First I heard of Star Ferry was so many years ago reading The World of Suzie Wong - and yes, it is that romantic (with Leslie along, that is). HK Island is more business oriented, but as packed with people as Kowloon. On Island can catch tram up to top of HK Peak - major fun (wrote about it yesterday). Many other things to do on Island, but the main thing to do (for me) is watching the world unfold & Kowloon (further up Nathan Rd.) is as good as any place for that. Once you get about a kilometer up the road & a street or 2 over from Nathan Rd., it gets pretty much all Chinese & very interesting.

This trip is like others in that there are almost no responsibilities except not losing (on previous trips, Leslie & now) David or Jeff or passport & money. The simple (& I suppose irresponsible) life leading closer & closer to here & now. A couple of times so far I've clicked deep into the present. Photo below: David & me at the Cosmic (photos of rooms on this Worldisround page)

Earlier I wrote about Chung King Man

sion like everyone reading this would know what it is. Not likely, of course. About 6 blocks up Nathan Road from the harbor is the Chung King Mansion. Lonely Planet says, "There is probably no place in the world like CKM, the budget accommodation ghetto of HK. It's a huge high rise dump in the heart of TST ..." The first floor (arcade) is a warren of small shops, some of which are wholesale only - selling to people from around the (3rd) world. Many many Asian, Middle Eastern, African, & other people in the halls, making deals of all sorts. In the evening prostitutes around. The place is a buzz of energy & I love it. 2nd floor more shops, but no excitement. Above that, CKM is full of guesthouses, businesses, apartments, etc., etc. Passport photos at CKM are 20 for $2.

We're staying 1/2 block away in the Mirador Mansion. Lonely Planet: "It's a bit cleaner & less crowded."

What a wonderful son is mine. We go along, feeling connected to varying degrees & then something happens & the connection is stronger. Like today, I realized that he has put a lot of songs for me on his MP3 player (like REM Nightswimming - which he teases me about liking) & other little clues of connectedness keep happening. (This is a prayer, not a casual use of the word, God) Oh God, I am so grateful for the Blessings of my son & my wife. Thank you. More concrete proof

of grace.

Last night Jeff bought a shirt for $25 HK. When he paid for it, the girl gave him change for $50 because - surprise - there was another price tag on the shirt. He said he didn't want it at that price. She said cannot return. He said give me the money back & she said no. He left the change she tried to give him on the counter & sat down by the cash register. While this was going on I was up the street looking for a place to eat & when Jeff & David did not catch up to me, I went back to the shop & David explained what was happening. I went in & told him to hang loose while I went to get police. Of course you know what happens when you need them - nowhere to be found. Went back & told Jeff I'm still looking & to stay cool. I said it loud to kind to kind of create a scene without really creating one. The girl heard and when I returned (still no po-po), the girl had caved in and given him his money back. We learned a much easier lesson than many one learns in Asia. Photo above: Harbor at night

After this mini-debacle we had a vast amount of Macau-style curry & Chinese vegetables loaded with garlic & peppers - sweaty guys! We headed off for the night market near the Jordan Road Yue Hwa. David found some light cotton jeans + alteration for $4 US. I bought 6 jade (sort of) pieces to use for fan pulls. Looks like some good seafood places nearby. The Ladies Market about 3 klicks up Nathan Road seems better than the Yue Hwa (Mongkok) area night market. Better prices & fewer tourists.

Some high points:

  • The meal near Aiplu Street 6-8 klicks up Nathan Road - more duck & pork + vegetables on rice + big pitcher of tea than we could
    eat.
  • The Lucky Computer Center in same area - a building full of stalls selling every computer thing you can imagine & so many people you can barely move. I asked a salesman if much is stolen & he said no & I asked why & he said he's wondered the same thing.
  • Being in the sea of people Sunday evening in the Ladies Market area.
  • The Star Ferry, of course - today there were many many clouds - could not see top of Peak - sprinkling.
  • The Peak.
  • Mango drinks for $5 HK around corner from guesthouse - several of us may be developing a little mango problem - can't stop drinking them.

And, of course, just being here with David & Jeff. Leslie, I miss you. Photo above: Big John's Cafe

Did I mention it is hot & muggy here? Feels like start of monsoon - raining 1-3 x day for 30-60 minutes. Monsoon fine with me. You stay damp all

the time, get a little fungus going (I have a lot of clotrimazole, though - I'm ready to go).

Confirmed reservations/flight for tomorrow - we're off to Bangkok and then Vietnam.

HK Entry 4: Up at 6 am to finish packing. Headed for dim sum shop for last breakfast: thick noodles with 3 sauces, bun (pork), & coke. David had same except had glutinous rice roll; Jeff had sticky rice. Will post photos later. A21 bus to airport for $33 HK - maybe 45 minute ride. Went past spectacular bridge, like one I think will go across Trinity River in Dallas - which just seems silly after seeing one across a bay in HK.

New HK airport even better than old. I would rate China Air as a 6-7 on scale of 1-10 & their food as 4.5 (but I ate it). Plane was 747, full, but easy for a 2.5 hour flight. Here are some more photographs on Worldisround.com. Use back arrow to return OR just head On to Thailand is another entry for Hong Kong in the End of the Trip page.