As has become a recurring theme, I was up at 4:30. It's as good an hour as any, though just once I'd like to see the clock read "8:00" when I wake up. Might be nice for some variety.
I had two hours until they began serving breakfast at the Regency Club on the 23rd floor, so I spent the time catching up on things and working on the trip report. About 5:30 I became really hungry and the solution made me laugh. In
for reasons I cannot quite recollect, I decided to purchase a Big Grab (or
whatever the hell it's called) sized bag of Cheez-Its. These then stayed in my
backpack through three flights and two lounges. Ah, but now in Hong Kong they fulfilled their purpose in life: providing
pre-breakfast sustenance. Thank you, honorable Cheez-Its!
I also discovered that my plans for staying in touch, a combination of Skype and Google Voice, worked well enough. Happy to be living in 2012.
Normally I'd spare you the details of my showering (is that a sigh of disappointment I hear? Must be my imagination!) but my god it's huge. The, um, shower, that is. You could easily fit three or four people. And that's enough for that line of discussion.
After showering I faced a mild shirt disaster. I had planned on doing laundry on Day 10 of the trip at a laundromat near the Hyatt. Unfortunately I'd not planned the number of shirts properly and so all I had left was my Arsenal jersey. It seemed somewhat appropriate given that the final game of the season would be taking place that night, but could I have looked any more like a tourist? Oh wait, I'm a 6'1" white guy walking around
Hong Kong, there's basically no way I'm not going to look
like a tourist.
On the way up to the Regency Club for breakfast the only person I encountered was an Indian gentleman wearing a Bayern Munich shirt. I think I'm going to be alright. I wished his team luck in defeating the hated Chelski in a week's time and then headed in for breakfast.
|For those who were wondering what was in that Swiss Air amenities kit|
|Ample breakfast spread in the Regency Club|
|That Diamond Trial was the best decision I made on the trip|
I also had three Coke Zeros. That's for the record, of course.
|View from the Regency Club on the 23rd Floor - I hate that Canon building so much|
|Does pork become more or less kosher over 1000 years?|
|Gotta have more carbs|
|Congee = Delicious|
|I've eaten so much salmon on this trip. SO MUCH|
I called an audible and drew up new plans to start the day by travelling to Stanley Market. This would require a bus ride. Shameful Admission Number Whatever The Hell We Are Up To Now: I hate buses. Just absolutely hate them. They trip every anxiety I have about traveling somewhere new for the first time. First you usually need exact change. And you have to know exactly where to wait for the thing. And you need the right stop because there's that odd part where you have to signal for a stop before the stop but how do you know it's before the stop if you've never been before? Anyway, it's a mess. Give me a subway any time. When I spent two weeks catsitting for my brother in
a few years ago I would walk a mile extra if it meant I could avoid taking a
But there was no avoiding it in this case. I had no desire to pay the cab fare to compensate for my personal shortcomings and if you can't overcome your fears while traveling then really what's the point?
My trip would ostensibly start with one of the world's greatest tourist deals: less than 50 cents American for a ride across
from the side I was staying on ( Kowloon) to Hong Kong proper aboard the Star Ferry. When the second
or third most-recommended experience in a city also doubles as a needed form of
transportation, I'm pretty excited about it.
There was only one problem: I needed an octopus. You see, people in
Hong Kong are tremendous Detroit Red
Wings fans and to travel anywhere in style and comfort, you need an octopus.
Alright, everything I just said is a lie but it would be great if even one
person believed me. What I actually needed was an Octopus Card, Hong Kong's gift to the world. You load up this beauty
with cash and then you use it for everything. Ferry rides, bus rides, subway
rides, McDonalds, 7-11, you name it. Only problem is that to the best of my
knowledge, and by my knowledge I mean the knowledge of the Hyatt concierge, you
couldn't buy one at the Star Ferry terminal.
So I descended into the bowels of the Tsim Sha Tsui/East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station in search of my octopus. It only took about five minutes of aimless wandering and I had found someone who would sell me a completely legitimate octopus. After another twenty minutes of wandering wherein I should have taken a left at
(have I used that reference already in this trip report? Feels like I have), I
found my way back to the street and headed off sans map in search of the Star
I'm not going to say how long it took me to make the five minute walk to the Star Ferry Terminal. I'm just going to pretend like I meant to explore
and that the thirty minute walk was intentional. Yup, that's my story and I'm
sticking to it. Shortly after this experience I managed to work out how to open
PDFs and ebooks on my iPhone and I was never mapless or guideless again.
Some observations from the walk:
1) I love the name
Why? Because of 1998's oft-forgotten Squaresoft RPG SaGa Frontier. The idea in
the game was simple: why give you one boring, poorly-written and stupidly long
story when we could give you seven that made you repeat the same side quests ad
naseum? It was the perfect JRPG in that regard and it featured a town called Kowloon. Fond memories
for then-17-year-old Danny.
2) Holy cotton thermal underwear Batman, it's hot. Hot is probably not the right word, actually. Temperatures never topped 85 or so. But the humidity. Oh my god the humidity. I live in
Florida. I've visited Disneyworld
in August. I'm not a stranger to humidity. This was not 100% humidity. This was
500% humidity in that somehow Hong Kong has managed to condense space-time and
borrow humidity from the future or from Las
Vegas. Or both. I literally could not keep hydrated no
matter how many times I whipped out my octopus at a 7-11 for massive bottles of
water. And we aren't going to even mention the sweating. I'm sure I looked
absolutely awful. Thankfully travelling alone means I don't have to impress
3) Someone was doing Tai Chi at the Star Ferry Terminal. Someone else would later be doing it at the
Museum in Stanley. It looked very relaxing. I could go
for some of that.
4) When I was a kid growing up in
New Jersey I could not understand how
McDonalds was the number one fast food chain. We had two in all of the towns
that I had visited. There were easily more Burger Kings and probably more
Wendys. Then I moved to the midwest where there's a McDonalds at every highway
exit and suddenly it all made sense. Similarly there was a 7-eleven down the
street from my house and that was the only one I'd ever seen until years later.
How could it be so popular? Well, it turns out that 98.6% of the world's
7-elevens are located in Hong Kong. True
story. Alright, it's not quite that much BUT according to the fine folks at
Wikipedia, 7-eleven density in Hong Kong is second only to Macau
so I'm not far off. This called to mind a Facebook post I made earlier this year when 7-eleven inadvertently opened it's fourth store within half a mile of our college. I thought that had to be a record. There are places in Hong Kong where I can see four 7-elevens from one spot! Best part of 7-eleven? They love my octopus. Oh yes folks,
this is going to be good.
Where were we? Here's a photo of the Clocktower outside the Star Ferry Terminal. I was totally trying to find this on the way to the terminal, you guys. It was like 100% intentional that I ended up there and if you say otherwise you will feel the wrath of my octopus.
|Fortuitous clock tower|
|IFC tower - 5th largest building in the world....but is there a ride inside of it?|
|More shots of the Hong Kong skyline|
|I love how the building on the left is a miniature version of the IFC Tower - brilliant!|
|Looking back to the Kowloon side|
|"A field full of tires that is always on fire, to light my way home"|
|The bridge to the airport that I missed last night because I was sleeping in the taxi|
|Look, either you're the first ferry or the seventh, you can't have it both ways|
I forgot my sunglasses in the room for your amusement, so the ride on the Star Ferry featured lots of squinting and fighting off glare. After disembarking the ferry I made my way to the Exchange Square Bus Station. Oh no - did I want the 6? The 66? The 260? The 6X? The 6A? OHGODIHATEBUSESSOMUCH. I nearly got on the 260, aka the Stanley Express, and was glad later that I didn't because it cuts right through the Aberdeen Tunnel instead of going over the hills. I settled on the 6, which is like the Coca-Cola of buses to
the classic that keeps getting better with time.
I sat in the upper deck as recommended by my travel guide, but it would have been even more helpful if they'd recommended sitting on the right side of the upper deck. As it was my photos there came out like crap and it was raining on the way back so those photos came out like crap too. Or I'm just a crap photographer. I'm willing to go either way on this one.
But the ride, oh the ride. It was fantastic! It was so amazing that I'm thinking about going back on the morning of my flight out and just riding the bus there and back. You start by climbing the hills overlooking the city. It makes for some amazing views of the city and the harbor. I particularly enjoyed the terraced cemeteries. I am always amazed by the ways in which civilizations have developed funerary practices to meet their local geography and climate. Random aside, but I highly recommend a competent cemetery tour if you're ever in
Alright, where were we? Oh yes, amazing bus ride. After you hit the summit you begin descending into the southern portion of
Hong Kong island, which is much more relaxed. The busses
are marvels created to set the minds of people like me at ease. The Octopus
system could not be easier. Tap the card against the reader on the way in (it
reads it in less than a second) and then grab a seat. No exact change needed.
And there are electronic signs that indicate the name of the next stop so you
know when you need to signal. Plus the busses are remarkably efficient. I don't
think we ever stopped for more than 30 seconds as people got on and off.
The views of the hills, the lush greenery and the
South China Sea are just breathtaking on the southern
portion of the drive. My words don't do it justice but if you ever come to Hong
Kong, ride the 6 to Stanley
and sit on the upper right on the way there and the upper left on the return.
|You have no idea how many photos of these buildings you are in for|
Plus nearby was a temple that the guide described as perhaps the most moody interior on the island. The guidebook was wrong, again. I switched to a different guidebook after this.
At this point the market was just beginning to open. I walked through in about five minutes just to see what there was to see, but since outside of Disney parks I'm not much of a shopper, I was content with my quick lookthrough. I caught the 6 back to Central and got on just as torrential rains began. Missing the rains was a good thing, but it did screw up my photos on the ride back. Trade-offs, right? The highlight of the return journey, other than the incredible views, was the five-year-old in front of me who kept saying things like "whoa" every time we turned a corner and another incredible sight greeted us. His excitement added to the coolness of the experience, much like how riding Soarin' is always better when your vehicle is full of people who've never been before. Oh god, Disney is infecting the non-Disney pages of the trip report. Abort! Abort!
|View from Stanley|
|South China Sea (aka view from Stanley but I *just* used that caption)|
|Oh boy - Main Street USA?! Hey. Wait. Where the hell is Donald?|
|Murray House - feel the history! Go on, feel it. Touch the history. Just a little bit. Please? Okay, we're done here.|
|This interior better be moody like the guidebook said|
|If the mood they are going for is "elementary school cafeteria" then BAM, Mission: Accomplished|
|I thought you needed more history; plus this photo came out well|
|I'll take six. Too greedy? Fine. Four? Three? Two? Can I at least sit in it? Fine, I'm leaving, no need to call security|
The Ferry ride back was equally enjoyable, this time with the added bonus of a busker playing John Denver's
Country Road in the terminal. Did not see
that one coming at all.
In the terminal I decided to try out my Octopus card on a vending machine. They had a drink that looked a lot like a Chinese Arnold Palmer and at that moment there was nothing I wanted more than a Chinese Arnold Palmer in my mouth. But I somehow screwed it up and instead got some Pocari Sweat.
Not clue what it was, but it was tasty enough and did not appear to have too much sugar in it. Much obliged, vending machine. Much obliged Mr./Mrs. Pocari for your sweat.
The walk back to the hotel entailed a trip up
Nathan Road, aka
the Golden Mile, aka "Would you like a tailor? Watch? Copy watch?"
Road. Every five feet someone tried to sell me something. I tried my usual no
headshake but that was clearly going to be insufficient. Tomorrow's post will
have my solution to the problem.
I also stopped in at Chungking Mansions, which is a huge block of, well, I can't explain it properly. Here's the Wikipedia entry. Don't tell my students I just did that. Thanks.
|Lesson for life|
|Third tastiest sweat I've ever tried|
|When you do what you love then these two boxes won't look so different|
|There were other teams on this sign too, but let's be honest: Mancunians are illiterate|
|What happens in Chungking Mansions stays in Chungking Mansions, along with one of your kidneys|
I napped for about 3 hours and then headed out. Shortly after leaving the hotel, still wearing my Arsenal shirt, I passed a gent in a Spurs shirt. I believe protocol meant that I should have pushed him into oncoming traffic, but instead we both smiled and wish each others team good luck that night.
cool. complete with a massive walk-through exhibit called The Story of Hong
Kong. It took me about an hour to get through, which for me is quite
impressive. I'm not much for art museums (I'm giving the Louvre a pass in Museum
of History Paris; one of the joys of
traveling alone) but I am always up for a good historical or scientific
It was still pretty early at that point and the Night Market would not get up and running for a few more hours. On the way back to the hotel I decided to get some lunch/dinner. I wasn't actually hungry, thank you humidity, but it seemed like a good idea anyway. I found a local place that seemed to have a decent crowd inside and I gave it a try. In the part of Tsim Sha Tsui where the Hyatt is located I didn't have much hope for authentic or great Cantonese, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The menu had quite a few good options on it, and I was tempted by the pigeon, which is supposedly a local specialty. But I decided that like the impeccable Jew that I am, I should go for the most kosher thing on the menu and I ordered the crispy pork skin. Somewhere my Sunday School teacher was grimacing.
The look on the waitress's face when I ordered the pork skin was priceless. I think she was expecting me to order the fried rice? I've never had pork skin before, but this was quite tasty! I'm not sure if I was supposed to eat all of it, as there were parts that seemed awfully cartilage-like, but why not? I especially appreciated that she didn't even offer me chopsticks (hey, I'm not that bad with them) and just brought me a fork.
I returned to the hotel and then immediately passed out again. I didn't want to. I wanted to write some of the
trip report. But this was a losing battle. I force myself up at 6:30 and headed
up the Regency Club to see what their evening cocktails consisted of. I had a
few very light things and then I stumbled down to the street in half-zombie
mode and purchased some Red Bull.
The Red Bull proved quite effective, which was unexpected given my history with the stuff, and I managed to watch the Arsenal match on a jumpy, laggy illegal stream. Mostly I followed a blogger's minute-by-minute report of the game that he was getting by watching a slightly less-jump less-laggy illegal stream. What a world! Arsenal barely pulled out the victory, securing third place and a spot in the Champions League. Oh, and I guess those deplorable #*@& from City won the title. I hope they are happy with it. Maybe we could save the whole world a lot of trouble and just sell Premier League titles at Tesco to wealthy resource tycoons? I'm not bitter. Not at all.
At midnight I decided to call it a night. Or so I thought. For more on that, as if anyone has actually read this entire massive entry, come back tomorrow.
|You already got your history earlier dammit, why do you want more?|
|Seemed appropriate given my quote in the local paper during the school year|
|Worst. Jew. Ever.|