Day 14 - Hong Kong Style

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Just an idea of how busy it can get in HK, this was taken at around 7pm
Hello and welcome to Hong Kong!

Sorry I'm still a little behind on the updates; here is what happened in HK.

I entered Hong Kong at their airport that was built on a man made island by British architect Norman Foster (he's the guy that designed Wembley, The 'Gherkin' Swis Re and London City Hall) , it was enormous - the walk to collect the bags must have been a mile, or at least it felt like it.  Collecting my bags and going through immigration and customs (and after responding to messages about the quake), I headed to the ATM for some cash and then to the bus.  Now as I was boarding the bus with the equivalant of £20 for a £3 bus fare I realised that they don't give change.  Bugger.  So I had to walk back for again a mile, to a shop in the airport for some change.

Jumping on the bus with my bag, which seems to get heavier and heavier every time I pick it up (it's only  11kg), I sat up on top deck to get a good view and chilled out on the journey to my hostel.  The bus, got full very quickly and was mainly used by staff of the local businesses in and around the airport, but I need to be cheap skate to keep my costs down (something which clearly didn't last very long).

As you start to enter Hong Kong from the airport there is an immediate Benidorm feel to it.  Quite a lot of run down concrete block skyscrapers which look to be symbolising the old British reign.  And then some more run down concrete skyscrapers.  None of what I saw out of the window looked anything like what I saw in my brother Daniels bedroom poster.

As the bus entered the heart of Hong Kong it looked totally crazy.  I've never seen so many people, far more than one would see in Tokyo.  The place really didn't live up to my initial expectations of basically a British Tokyo.

A picture on the bus of one of the many areas of HK

Eventually (after about an hour and a half) the bus arrived at the destination of my hostel, I did have to ask one of the passengers if this was the right place.  It was pretty dark now, and I struggled with my GPS on my phone to find the hostel address that I had....eventually I got there.

As I rang the door bell a lady came to the door.  She asked if I had a reservation, to which I acknowledged.  She said that she had no more people due to arrive and that they were full up.  Crap.  I've heard about this before on some random blog post dating 2002.  I looked through my emails on my phone to get the reservation details and said look, here it is, the YesInn and the address.

She looked at me sympathetically (but probably more in the 'you're and idiot'), "I'm sorry sir, but this isn't the right hostel you've arrived at, you're in Fortress Hill on the other island.  There are three YesInn's in Hong Kong".

So, throwing away my keeping a low budget, I got a 30 minute taxi to the southern island and to Fortress Hill where my actual hostel was.

It took me a while to find the main entrance.  The area initially had the feeling of a Judge Dredd or Firth Element look to it - you know, heavily over urbanised, a bit rundown, congested and polluted.

I headed up the lift to where the hostel was, paid up front and went into my room.  I was immediately greeted by the cheerful kiwi face of Jay. This was then followed by David (from Hungary), Murray (from Oz) and then Hyewon (from the Good Korea).

The gang (with the exception of Elaine who I met the next night)
Apologies to Jay as this is probably not the best shot of him
(from left, David, Jay, Me, Murray and Hyewon

Jay and David were planning to live and/or work in Hong Kong, Murray like me was on tour and Hyewon was there on business.

We decided to head out for something to eat, and ended up in a fast food noodle place that sold really good noodle soups and other funky dishes.  Once that was munched down we thought, lets have a quiet walk into one of the busy parts of town.

So like true tourists we headed to 7/11, grabbed some beers and sat watching the people below in the town having a good time.

Chilling out over the wall

Adverts everywhere - in this one I realised me and the Stella guy had an
uncanny resemblance to each other
Getting jealous of all the partying we decided to join in, and headed down for a walk around to decide which bar to head too.

Now before I continue I do need to point a couple of things out.  Me and the guys (and girl) realised that there are significant patches in my memory on what happened that night.  Including how one guy from China joined us for the last few hours of the night - honestly I have no recollection of him but there is photographic evidence.  So bear with me as I try and piece together the details.

The mystery Chinese guy who joined us for the evening - I have no recollection of him at all.
So, we headed to one bar where we ordered a load of beers had a good dance to music and Hyewon worked furiously to get these girls dancing with Murray - which from memory they were more than happy to - go Murray!

We left the bar, working out that it was cheaper going to the 7/11; so we went there again grabbed some cheap beer like a bunch of 16 year old kids, and started dancing at this bar on one of the corners.  We were approached by a group of girls whom had a list of dares to perform; and we happily offered to help them fulfil them (they weren't as exciting as you may be thinking - I did try editing one of the tasks which I'm not sure if it payed off or not).

The group of girls who had the dares
As the 7/11 drinks were flowing we decided to start buying drinks from the bar and step up a boogie.  Now many of you know me when I get drunk - I start dancing, a lot.  I came to a great idea that I'd do the Macarena to a completely different song (you see the Macarena works to almost any song).  So as we started doing it more and more people began to join in.  Then more.  Then more, until the whole corner was covered with people either dancing the macarena or filming everyone dancing the macarena. Buy the second song, the DJ slapped on the Macarena!  People power!

For some unbeknown reason I turned to everyone else and screamed "are you having a good time?" and they all screamed back "Yeah!".  What the hell was I drinking!!!?

The night continued and the drinks flowed and the drunken pictures began to be taken...

Apparently I decided to climb up this street sign - but I think the guys
might be winding me up

Some fellow dancers

Beautiful dancing by our group
pictures courtesy of Jay (I'm too drunk to stand) Photography Incorporated
I somehow managed to end up back in a cab - which I don't remember getting in or out of, but I do remember the journey back with the window down, wind blowing on my face, and the constant thought that any minute now I will need to throw that door open and empty my guts onto the street.  Thankfully and miraculously that never happened.

The next morning I woke up to some beautifully hungover people, OK lets be honest, I was hungover and everyone else seemed okay.  In fact, I felt shocking.  It took a clear 12 hours before I felt any hint of healthiness.

A few of us headed to McDonalds across the road for a hangover cured breakfast.  That's when a shocking thing occurred.  By this point I had discovered that, like the UK, many staff at McD's and other shops really don't want to be there, and boy do you get to know it in some shops in HK.  The woman grunted me over to the counter, asked what I want.  To which I politely replied and paid for.  Whilst waiting for my food, a lad came to the counter with three (presumably) cold packets of fries and complained about them.  She reluctantly took them off him and then to my sweet horror, confidently  placed one of them on my tray.  WTF.

My jaw dropped. 'wo, wo, wo, wo, wo' (my voice went higher in tone) 'what the, bloody...you do realise I saw exactly what you just did my eyes aren't painted on', "you don't want fries?", 'of course I bloody want fries, but not some crap someone has handed to you', "oh okay".

I turned to Jay and he couldn't believe it either.  Suffice to say the other McD's I went too were ok.

My plan for the day was to purchase my MacBook Air; a mission I was extremely excited about :).  But boy was it a tough mission.  Now for the Apple nerds out there, HK does not have an official store in HK, just resellers, premium resellers and dodgy dealers.

I eventually - after about a good 5 hours, located a premium reseller, tried to haggle the hell out of them and they wouldn't budge - but got the MacBook Air and hurried back to the Hostel to play.  (It's worth noting that HK has no sales tax, so my MacBook Air was about £400-£500 cheaper than the UK).

An odd statute representing the hi-tech shopping capital of the world HK is

A little busy crossing the road

Bamboo is actually used as scaffolding - and I thought it was just a rumour

A typical shopping street

Where my mac was 'born'

That night our gang, with a member down as Hyewon headed back home, went for a manly steak at a restaurant near by - which was really good and very cheap.  And before heading back to the hostel we grabbed a load of beers at the 7/11 and chilled out in one of the open areas (more like a corridor) in the hostel.

We were later joined by Elaine, to whom I don't have a photo of (will grab one from FB).  From Kuala Lumpur, Elaine has moved to HK to continue her (very) impressive career in PR and Marketing.  We discovered that night that she can speak about 20 different languages too - a smart cookie indeed, I struggle with French, German and 'Tarn Talk'  (Barnsley).

Elaine is on the right (pic courtesy of theft from Facebook)

The next day I decided to visit Discovery Bay (from a recommendation by Jay and David) and The Peak (to fulfil my second HK purpose).

Discovery Bay, a short ferry ride from the Central MTR stop in HK, was a very unusual place - more so that it is in stark contrast to the 'mainland' islands of Hong Kong.

Map of Discovery Bay

Whilst there is a mixture of wealth on the islands, Discovery Bay is where all the rich people live; or at least on the surface that is what is apparent.  There didn't appear to be many Chinese residents here either; just plenty of sunburnt and sun-kissed ex-pats and wealthy foreign businessmen.  All of whom travel around the island on golf carts.  I kid you not...golf carts.  And not cheap carts either. Each one costs the owner a sweet $200,000.  Ouch.

Golf carts mingle with busses and cars, however there are far fewer vehicles on the island

An area frequented by many joggers and dog owners

Each house is beautifully decorated with plants and water features,
with views onto the beach and the sea.

A row of golf carts parked outside a restaurant

A golf cart parker in its purpose built garage 
Two very nice houses

Boats chilling out on the beach

Two residents practicing their tennis skills.  Along side the courts are cricket training areas
where I saw one guy get a ball straight in his unprotected leg - I didn't get my
camera out quick enough to capture it but couldn't help but laugh out loud!

In short, Discovery Bay is lovely.  I could quite easily live there and commute into the main HK islands to work every day.  Perhaps it's just the thought that I get to own a golf cart!

Getting used to the 'self timer shot'

The beach in Discovery Bay

One part of the promenade

Leaving Discovery Bay the trip back on the ferry was impressive.  Viewing HK skyline in full for the first time reminded me of the place I always thought it was.  It was no longer the Benidorm of Asia, but an eclectic mix of the new and the old, British and Chinese influences.  The charm that city has came through.

Many container vessels can't moor beside the island so
park and offload at these mobile jetties

One of HK's many islands

the beautiful skyline

A simple but stunning building


the heart of the city

Jumping off the ferry you are hit with a regular Sunday tradition in HK.  On Sundays the Philippine ladies of the city congregate all over the place, bringing food, drink and games and catch up on the weeks events.  Many of them create their own little dens, sharing food between dens and exchanging clothes and goods with their street neighbour.  You are fooled to believe at first that they are homeless, but they are not, they are just far away from home.

Alighting from the ferry you are greeted by happy and chatty Philippine women

Sometimes there are just two or three in a group

other times there are as many as 15

the walkaway above is full of women stood and happily catching up on the week

This shot shows five groups of women
talking together - can you spot them?
Right my next mission.  I wanted to take a picture of the Hong Kong skyline for the peak, a picture that has been on one my brothers wall.  Sadly Daniel didn't get my message before hand to send me a pic, so I had to take the picture from memory from the right point (it later turned out that I was too far back from the bay area - but it's pretty close!).

You make the trip up to the peak via a heavily congested tram.  Attached to the tram station at the top is a Maddam Tussards - which I have to be honest, looked pretty poor so didn't pay the extra.

The view from the top of the peak was amazing.  It was such a great feeling that after seeing the picture on the wall in Dan's room for so long and wanting to go there, I finally did it.

Which way to the tram...?
Entrance to the tram
The Peak Tram


The stunning view of HK - I finally did it ! :)

Camera turned out to have a pretty good zoom

Three lads chilling out one of the roofs of their homes

I did it !

This is the son of the people who took the picture of me,
he kept wanting to come in shot, so  I agreed to take a pick with him - he was adorable.

I stayed up there looking at the view for a good half hour before heading back to meet up with the team, with new ekosi-lingual Elaine.  We hunted down some food; which wasn't too bad and then headed back out 'into town' for some more partying.  Now given that it was a Sunday, it wasn't that busy but we made the most of it and had an absolutely fantastic time.

Up early the next day I headed off for my flight to the Philippines, sadly leaving behind some friends for life (but not leaving them for too long).

So what can I say about Hong Kong overall?  At first the country or SAR (Special Administrative Region (of China)), greets you with crowded streets, diesel filled air, high rise concrete towers and a clash of cultures.  But what you get when you look underneath first impressions are streets filled with a variety of street sellers, food stalls and people commuting to work; the beautiful aromas of food emanating from the street vendors and restaurants - with a huge world variety of food on offer; an impressive mixture of architecture of new and old that gracefully compliment each other and tells the story of the history of the city; and a fantastic and friendly mix of Philippine, Cantonese, Chinese and Western people integrated harmoniously.  Hong Kong is a great city to stay for up to a week and is an ideal stopover/layover if you are on your way to OZ/NZ.  The city has a lot to show you, if you take the time and let it.

Dave :)


5 comments:

  1. I didn't know that you went other YES INN before. ;)
    if you were stay there, we couldn't dance Macarena. right?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Dave, Great read and current photo's.The photo of Hong Kong is really good and more precise as it is taken during the day, where as Dan's is at night.Lovely photo's of you and friend's .Yes you did it,brill photo of you and the skyline another one for our album. Take Care .Love Mum,Dad.Daniel.xxx

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, your posts are getting better each time. I'm jealous. I hope the rest of the trip is just as exciting as this sounds to have been :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Richard Torrance24 March 2011 at 00:22

    Thouroughly enjoying your updates, sounds brilliant. Genuinely looking forward to the next. Rich

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Dave, sounds like you had a good time. I was in Hong Kong in 1989 just before we handed back to the Chinese. I was up on the border with the Hong Kong Regiment for 9 days and had 6 days R&R in Kowloon. Had a fantastic time, have a look on my Facebook under Army pictures, you will see a couple from the border, one with a Chinese border post in the background, the other was taken on the bridge between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, before they completed it (it was two half’s with the bit in the middle missing, they didn't join it up until the Chinese took over). Alan

    ReplyDelete

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