Daily Archives: 2009-10-19

Skyscrapers, Ferries, and Markets, Oh My! – Hong Kong

I was looking forward to meeting up with Barrett who has been living in Hong Kong for almost a year now. We met years ago and felt super lucky to have him show me around his new city. After breakfast, I hopped on the shuttle which took me from the container port to the cruise ship terminal. I was impressed that the upscale hotel called Barrett’s cell phone for me when I couldn’t find him. Turns out there were three Marco Polo hotels in the same vicinity.

Finally we connected and wandered out to the Tsim Sha Tsue Star Ferry Peir where I got my bearings. I was impressed to say the least at the spectacularly laid out Victoria Harbor. It was easy to see why it is ranked with Rio de Janerio, San Francisco, and Sydney as one of the worlds most beautiful harbors. The city skyline boasts a multitude of modern architectural feats which, as far as aesthetics go, make this my favorite cosmopolitan city so far.

We jumped on the ferry which is equivalent to 33 cents across the water from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. It took about 5 minutes and is only one of the many forms of transport here. There is also a subway that goes under the harbor and covers much of the area, including a stop marked on the map by Mickey Mouse ears. Yes you guess it, Disneyland but I didn’t get there.

Barrett taught me about the intricate web of pedways connecting all the streets that kept people safe from having to cross the roadways. There is even the longest escalator in the world here! As he pointed a meeting spot for us on the map, a butterfly the size of my hand fluttered through my hair and landed on the page. That’s when I knew it was going to be a good day.

I wandered around the shops for a while and got a feel for the hustle and bustle going on all around me. While I was waiting for Barrett at the specified spot, I witnessed two Western tourists picking up a scantily clad prostitute in broad day light. I know I should get ready for this because I am, after all, going to Bangkok where this kind of stuff is rampant. Still, this kind of transaction is something that I can’t help but see as a bit of a spectacle.

I was ogling the old meets new which I encountered around every corner. It was just fantastic to experience such extremes coinciding next door to each other. Glassy slick business towers jutting high into the sky with a dank dirty antique looking shanty housing who know what kind of nastiness inside. The contrast was surreal and gave me an idea of just how far this culture spans in time.

Barrett and I hopped on a tram after I purchased an Octopus Card which is like a transportation debit card. One swipe to use the train, tram, bus, subway, or ferry rather than having to fumble around with change. Handy indeed! Wide eyed with envy and wonder, I complimented my friend on his choice of a place to call home. So far I was well impressed and I hadn’t even had the dim sum yet.

We ordered bbq steamed buns, shrimp dumplings, and a few other delectable favorites. I thought the quality was miles ahead of anything I had tasted at home. It seemed fresher and the service more professional. My favorite was a purple taro roll filled with mango rolled in coconut that we had for dessert. My mouth waters even as I type these words. Thanks to Barrett for letting me have the last piece. J

I parted ways with B in Times Square then wandered around before heading into one of the many choices for massage. I was a little leary as I had heard stories of places that used prostitutes rather than professionals. I suppose the place I ended up at was decent but I wouldn’t return. What is it with the Chinese massage people hitting all the time! I am going to be black and blue by the time I leave this country.

I took the train to the Ladies Market which is made of colorful stalls with everything from umbrellas to scarves to socks to hair accessories to dresses to shoes to well…you name it. And here is a place to hone your bargaining skills. Barrett told me the rule of thumb is to start with 10 percent of their asking price. I ended up with a dress for 80 Hong Kong Dollars (10 bucks) which was originally 250. I thought I did ok and besides, I needed a dress to wear that night.

When I realized that it was 445pm and that I only had a quarter of an hour to get back to the last shuttle, I put it in to high gear. I ran through the streets and through the mall finally ending up on the bus huffing and puffing and dripping sweat. I was so grateful to have made it but it was all for naught as he didn’t leave for another 15 mins anyway. Ug.

Back on the ship I watched the folkloric show which boasted more ultra flexible gymnastics and even a charming magician. Where he pulled those twenty umbrellas out of, I will never know. The little girls were a lot more impressive than the last show too and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Afterward I had eaten snack, I made my way up to the top deck to wait for the nightly light show that the city puts on. This night, our ship would cross right past the “main stage” and actually be part of the show. I was dazzled by the magnificent city skyline lit up. This is a classy city indeed. But to be honest, I thought the actual light performance (which was set to music as well) was a little dull. I suppose I am comparing it to fireworks which are much more exciting. Most of us didn’t even know it was actually happening until it was almost over. Anticlimactic to say the least.

Next a group of us jumped on a tender which shuttled us to the Ferry Terminal. We were now anchored out in the harbor overnight so we had to spent 45 mins getting to and from the ship. We met up with Barrett who took us to his favorite haunts in the trendy pub/bar section of the city. It was fab to have our own personal guide who told us all the neat insider info.

There was lots of fun to be had and we explored many nooks and crannies of this hip and happening neighborhood. We grabbed beers from the 7-11 and surveyed the area before committing to any one bar. We got to don big furry coats and drink shots of ice cold volka in an ice bar. We met the Canadian who owned the bar called Cul De Sac and finally ended up in the bar that most of the ship crew were dancing in.

Finally we ended up taking a cab back to the ship when I ran in to Peter, the cruise director. Finally! It was lucky too because he was leaving on a plane early in the morning to go back to England. He was finished his contract and was taking a holiday. I was grateful to be able to thank him personally for being such a happy part of my cruise experience.

I hugged Barrett goodbye and chatted with some of the crew who were on the tender. Matt and I gabbed over late night snacks in the buffet area until dawn. I finally tumbled into bed and promptly fell asleep for a couple hours before I would have to wake to pack in more sightseeing. Phew!

Grateful for ex pats.

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Sea day in the South China Sea

This morning I woke up and skipped the gym to watch the cooking show. I was disappointed to learn that they changed the scheduled one and were doing the one I had already watched so I left. I found my way to the coffee bar instead where I ran in to a bunch of familiar faces. I am finding that this is not the best place for me to write anymore because everyone seems to want to talk all the time.

Next I watched the auction in the atrium which they were putting on to help those in distress in the Philippines. A lot of the crew onboard are from there and have family or friends who have been affected by the recent typhoons. I often wonder if the landslides, tsunamis, and earthquakes that have been so rampant in this area of the world lately will strike while I am here. I wonder but I don’t worry.

After lunch, I spent a couple hours in the coffee bar chatting with Megan who is leaving the ship soon. We took a break from our girl talk and slipped into the Arts and Crafts session next door in Savoy. We walked out with some handsome bookmarks with travel themes. I was quite impressed with my creativity.

After grabbing a bite in the buffet upstairs, I popped up to the gym for a spell. It was dead mostly because I think it was formal night again. I wandered down to visit Martin in Crooners where he sang “Stand by Me” as per my request. I stopped in to visit JT as he was hosting a Michael Jackson Tribute night. I listened to Billy Jean and had a chuckle as the oldies tore up the dance floor. It was the busiest I had ever seen it up there! I guess old MJ still lives strong in everyone’s heart, young and old.

Grateful for tributes.

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