Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hong Kong... big city stylin'


A place of stark cultural contrasts, epic quantities of tightly packed vertical real estate... and bird nest soup. Thats Hong Kong.This place has to be one of the most contradictory I have been to. It has old, derilict buildings side by side with glass and marble, sanity defying gargantuans... high class restaraunts side by side with street meat vendors... and during the day it seems a tad messy and unorganised on the surface while underground the highly sofisticated MTR (Mass Transit Railway) moves millions of people around the city daily with effortless ease, then at night it turns into a dazzling array of lights, motion billboards, signs and boundless energy. There is also a very (to me) unexpected cultural mix here. Being in China I sort of expected lots of Chinese people, but only about half of the popolution seems to be Chinese, the rest is a mix of Arabs, Indians and a variety of ethnic Africans, with the ocassional western ex-pat thrown in for good measure. I arrived here on the 6th, landed at the airport only to be confused by the miriad of ways you can get into the city (This might sound silly, how many ways can there be, but trust me, it was confusing haha)... I ended up on a local bus that I hoped was going to pass nearby the only hotel name I had been recomended by other backpackers, The New Kowloon Hostel. With a little help from the bus driver I got to the Mirador Mansion, went to the 13th floor (not without being hounded by a mass of people trying to get you into their guest house... there are several on each floor and there are 16 floors...), checked into a room and lay down with a sigh of relief. I was sort of in the mood for laying around reading a book, but my cramped little 5 x 9 foot room with no window and a bathroom so small you have to sit on the toilet to take a shower isn't all that inviting for a lazy afternoon so I thought to hell with it, lets see Hong Kong! It was short live though. Within 10 minutes I had been offered hash, weed, crack, coke and ice and that was all just walking around my block (guess what sort of people live in my building?). I made a quick escape into the shopping district across the road, ate Mc Donalds (I took the easy, safe bet under the circumstances) then while trying to decide what the hell to do with myself in this crazy place with noone to talk to but the drug dealers and then I saw that welcoming beacon that always indicates safety, familiar surroundings and cold beer - and Irish Pub. I couldn't get in there quickly enough! I left about 2 hours later after a long chat and several pints with an ex-pat canadian austalian english teacher in her late 50's. I intended to go home and have an early night but after 5 mins in my cramped little apartment I opted for a stroll back down to a 2nd Irish pub I had noticed on the walk home. I walked in, grabbed a pint then went and sat down to watch the Football. It was then that I met my savior in this place. My light in the otherwise (metaphorically) dark place that is Hong Kong. Jessica is a very nice German marketing strategist that is here until thursday, same as I am (then we both go to Shenzhen to catch our next flights), which is a godsend as she is a load of fun, a barrel of laughs and a handful of trouble (haha your not trouble Jess, you just have a bad sense of direction sometimes :-p ). We had a few drinks then she took me to see the 'Avenue Of Stars' where all the Chinese stars have their handprints in the concrete and a Bruce Lee statue dominates the promenade. We took some photo's of the amazing Hong Kong skyline at night then ambled around the city. The next day was enourmous. We went to the markets, which ones I have no idea, but it took us a few tries before eventually finding the 'Ladies Market' where the only climbing stores in Hong Kong are and I bought some new shoes and a new harness which was at the top of my to do list. Then it was market shopping time. We haggled with shop owners, bargained with sales people and walked away with some clothes for Jess and a new shoulder bag and a leather bound diary for me.Next it was off to the old part of the city to see the Temple there. It was the first Chinese Temple built in Hong Kong and it was built on the first ever street in Hong Kong. It was a nice little incense filled place with some nice statues and figurines. Then it was a roam around the old part of the city to soak up the ambiance of it all and see all the specialty spice and bird nest stores. This was followed by an unsucessful trip to a building you can see over the whole city from... it was closed for renovations, then back to our rooms for nap before a big night. I hit the pillow and slept for 2 hours before waking up in a daze realizing I had about 20 minutes to shower and get down to meet Jess for dinner.We dined at a nice little Italian resteraunt nearby, had desert at a juice bar a few blocks away then headed on the subway to Lan Kwai Fong, the infamous little clubbing district of Hong Kong with its blocked off roads full of night clubs, bars and boutique cafe's. We found a nice little place, had only couple of drinks (which is nice for a change haha) and danced the night away for hours... had a ball out there... shakin' that ass haha.A taxi home, something to eat from the 7-Eleven on the corner and some cautious side stepping of the hash dealers and some fights in the foyers of our quasi-ghetto vertical suburbs (our apartment buildings haha) and now I am here, writing on my laptop at 3:30am in my matchbox sized room. Now it's off to sleep before I fall asleep sitting up in front of my laptop haha.More soon... watch this space!


Waking up in this tiny excuse for a room is weird, not just because it is small, but because it has no windows so it is completely dark no matter what time of day it is. I woke up this morning in pitch black thinking it is still the middle of the night only to discover it is 10am! Off for some coffee and baked goods with Jess for breakfast then we headed of to get our ferry tickets for the trip to Shenzhen tomorrow morning. Then it was back to pick up my Chinese Visa and found they would only give 30 days, not 3 months, so that means early May I will need to come back to Hong Kong to extend for another 30 days... ghey. Oh well. I booked a last minute flight to Guilin and I am ready to get off to Yangshuo! Will probably arrive on the m orning of the 10th as I land in Guilin at 10.10pm so will have to stay there for the night.Once all that was organised Jess and I headed out to Yuen Long, a outpost suburb of Hong Kong, for a wander around a less intense part of town which was nice. Back we came once we had enough of that then tonight I am off to eat a steak. Yes. A REAL steak... Asia in general does't do steak so I am soooo looking forward to it!Lets hope the next day or two goes smoothly and the next you here from me will be about some climbing!

The Hong Kong night skyline from the harbour promenade
Jessica at the markets... which ones? Who knows haha

Downtown in the old precinct of Hong Kong

A random wall in the temple

Inside the temple

A lion statue outside the temple
The incense rings burning inside the temple
Jess and I in Lan Kwai Fong

Looking down into the central courtyard of my ghetto apartment building

Huge carp and tortises we fed in a pond in Yuen Long

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