Monday, March 19, 2007

hong kong, the final day

today was my last day of sighteseeing and pretty much went as far away as i could go for sights. both destinations were around the new territories, but the first spot took me around 2.5 hours to get to. it's a good thing that hong kong is a small place! the first place that i wanted to visit was a tiny 500 year old walled hakka village called kat hing wai. while it was nice to see old buildings still standing, the tiny enclosure so called a village was not worth the trip. and what's more, while waiting for the bus back, i saw what looked to be a rabid dog, foaming at the mouth and all!

my wildlife adventures continued at the second sight, the 10'000 buddha monastery 9which really has 12'800 buddha). on my walk to there i saw a wild monkey and got quite the scare from two very aggressive dogs. and on my walk back from the temple, i saw my first hk rat.

what was great about today was the weather. i got to finally see some blue sky and sun. and to top it off, the humidity really calmed down today and the temperature was perfect - not too cold or hot. i'm glad that i managed to get one nice day out of my 12 full days here! at least though i didn't get any (heavy) rain that would have prevented me from sightseeing.

tomorrow afternoon i hop on my flight back home. thankfully it's shorter going back (by 3 hours) and i'll get to go back in time as i leave at 2 pm but arrive at 11 am on the same day. it's a lot better that way then the full day i lost on my way over!

when i get back home i will start working on my pictures - sorting the good from the bad or the ordinary and editing them to upload them on flickr. with the quantity i have taken, it should take me a long time to go through it all. so be patient, and keep visiting the picture site in the future for pictures of my trip.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

hong kong vignettes

on sunday morning victor and i went out for dim sum. apparently a lot of the places here have now gone digital and no longer use the carts to offer food to its patrons. while victor was trying to remember a good place to go, i mentioned that i had seen a place that looked good around soho - and so i now became the lead and we headed out. thankfully, i did remember where it was and i did pick a really good place.

located on the second floor, the restaurant was packed and full of activity. ladies pushing carts, old men spitting bones onto the table, lots of noise and hardly enough room to walk around. we picked a spot beside a few tables and waited for someone to leave (that's how you get a seat). after a while we found two seats at a table with 4 other people, and happily got started. the lady to our left at the table was quite nice and showed us how to pour the tea (it was not in a regular tea container) and i got up to find some food. first item - something that seemed like beef in a noodle pancake. it was tasty, with hints of peanuts but the meat was a little on the raw side and worried us a bit. then, a tray came out from the kitchen and everyone threw themselves at it - and so we wanted some. it turned out to be some sort of tall sponge cake, which was quite nice but hard to eat with chopsticks!

after the cake we returned to savoury foods, with steamed buns stuffed with chinese preserves sausage (very sweet, not my favourite) and chicken feet (because one has to - very fat and tastes like chicken, but quite hard to eat). then we had the sort of meat balls on bean curd, they tasted like the meat from the pancakes. for the last dish, we had bright yellow dumplings, stuffed wit pork and shrimp (surprise!). they were quite good but i would have prefered them not having shrimps.

we left full, satisfied and happy from the experience.


yesterday i ended up in wan chai, an area that can be at points quite oriented towards tourists and expats - especially the male kind. when the sun started to set the neons got turned on and bouncers can out to the street to regulate patronage at the dance establishments. the signs say that the club offer "model dancers", not strippers and nothing sexy, although the pictures on the wall do show ladies in underwear.

what surprised me was how many of such clubs there is and that most places had old ladies serving as the bouncers.

while i was sitting a lemon tea at a coffee shop, i had for a view a few of these dance clubs. at 7:30 pm, two dancers came out in from of a club - dressed to the 9 in black nylons, garter belts, mini skits and slinky tank tops - to try to get more male customers. they both stood there, bathed in the light of the neon sign, trying not to be cold. one of the girls did not seem too comfortable with this, and kept pulling on her skirt and top to cover herself more. regardless, she happily called out to white male passerby things i could not hear, but that i am certain were inviting.

ah, hong kong!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

hong kong - better when wet

so, today was my second day of full-on sight seeing. my feet are hurting, my legs are sore and my shoulders ache from carrying my day bag. in all, things are as they should be.

over the past two days i've learned a few things about hong kong - it can be pretty soulless and blah. big skyscrapers are nice and all,but buildings are only buildings and they lack the charm of lived-in,history oozing small buildings that look like they are about to fall at the seam (like inpenang's chinatown, per say). hong kong has pretty much gotten rid of anything colonial or historic, and so most of everything built lacks charm. not to say that the architecture isn't wonderful at points - because it is, but you get what i mean.

i also learned that people in hong kong don't like being taken in pictures. they also don't seem to understand the concept of my asking permission before taking a shot. perhaps my lack of language skill makes my them miss the point, but i keep getting yelled at. on the other hand, some are more than happy to pose. too bad they are quite the minority.

the most inportant thing i discovered about hong kong is that i like it wet. not as in "it's raining" wet, but as in "wet market". a wet market is just that - places where the floor will get wet and nasty and where you've got to roll-up your pants before walking through it. and what's at a wet market, you may ask? butchers, veggies and fruit stands, flowers and best of all - fish and seafood. here, they like their fish as alive as possible. even when cut to pieces or cut in half, the fish will be bloody and the heart well exposed and still beating. fish heads still have the gills and lungs on, and are still moving. it's quite the sight.

talking about sights, i've already moved on to my second memory card. this has to be
record-breaking picture-taking stream for me. i had expected 1 card to last me between 5 to 7 days. i guessi'll need to start burning cds soon!

other than that, things are going well. it's great to be staying with my friend victor. i'm not suffering from jet lag. it hasn't been rainning. but it could be better - it could be warmer, and it could be sunny! pictures are just not as good with so much clouds and it's preventing me from going to the "peak" to get a nice view of the city.

tomorrow is sunday - and i'm heading in the early am to macau with victor. it will be nice to get more of the colonial feel in both the architecture and the food. i'll take a picture of me drinking vino verde (the official drink of macau - a portuguese white wine) in china! [edit - did not go to macau yet, but will do that very same thing when i do end up going]

ps. victor has lent me a cellphone for while i am in hong kong. my first cell phone ever! i don't like them by principle but here it will be quite practical to have one. i feel very behind the ages while trying to use it -i'm quite incompetent. and to make things even better, i've got quite the inauspicious phone number! i've got two 4 and no 8. ah well!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

hong kong - day of travel

i am now in hong kong, landed, refreshed after a night of must needed sleep. looking outside the window, there are clouds covering the top of the mountains. dozen of identical apartment towers stand crowded together. i can see in so many people's condos. i should have brought my binoculars.


yesterday, the day of travel, was very long. up at 8, i was at the airport by 10 only to learn that my flight had been delayed by 2 hours. victor had forwarded me - flight ac7 is always late. so i ate a big breakfast and killed some time. i even managed to get some shut eye before boarding the plane. on the plane though, it was a different story.

my re-acclimatisation to china started right there, in my seat. i had managed to remember and forget, at the same time, that the chinese do not have the luxury of space or inhibitions. every man for himself, the 3 kids behind me kicked my seat non-stop and even managed to shove their tiny hands in my hair. the gentleman next to me decided that reading a newspaper is a great way to keep busy on a flight - but forget about folding the pages first! when all the pages had been read, he leaned over to my side during an entire movie and during his many naps, i was scared that his head would end up on my shoulder. and it did.

the food was bad, the flight was long and air canada did not have the kindness to provide us with personal tv. ah well.

we landed in hong kong at 8:30, 1.5 hours later than scheduled. upon exiting the airplane i was rediscovered the charm of propaganda - tsing tao was telling me to "live your life" and the hand towel dispenser in the restroom suggested that i "save the environment and use less paper". even the voice in the shuttle train offered that i consider taking the elevator upon exiting.

hong kong airport has got to be the most efficient airport i have ever been to. i never had to wait for much of anything and everything was clearly indicated. the custom officer even had bowls of candy in front of their window.

i then hopped on the airport express (because after such a long flight, who cares about the HK$100 - CAD$15) and met up with victor, my friend from vancouver who is nice enough to put up with me and my bags for the duration of my stay. we headed right away to his place and that's where i've been ever since.

so, i'm now off to take a shower and to explore "central" for the day! i hope that i don't get (too) lost!

Friday, March 02, 2007

hong kong

i'm going to hong kong!!!

it actually didn't sink in that i am leaving next week until i was speaking to a customer yesterday. time flies and now i don't feel ready for it. it feels much too soon, perhaps because i feel quite unprepared - even though i am. it's quite exciting though, and i can't wait to get there. i had been dreaming of going back to china for months, and somehow hong kong was where i wanted to go, and next week it will be a reality. i can't wait for the craziness, the crowds, the smell, the markets, the food, the ferry rides and temple visits. i want to walk the streets and get lost (as i used to do in tokyo) and takes pictures. too bad all that mandarin i remember (aka, very little, but still!) will be useless.

what will be great of hong kong as well is the mix with british culture and the proximity of macau. i loved melaka in malaysia and i hope that the mix of chinese and portuguese will be wonderful there too. and to top it off - a friend of mine is living there!

so this weekend i have to start packing and buy last minutes stuff. it's nice though to head out with a backpack again - much lighter this time around i hope - and do the stuff of dreams again. since being back from my last trip, i had been missing being on the road. but really, what i missed was the constant changes, the challenges, the happiness and the independence. i'm glad i get to get that again, even if just for 2 weeks.

picture of hong kong skyline (cc) J.E.S (John Skodak)