I [heart] Hong Kong

Trip Start Sep 18, 2010
Trip End Jul 27, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hong Kong Hostel
Read my review - 3/5 stars
What I did
Avenue of Stars
The Peak
Cruise: Renting a boat with a bunch of people
ICC Observation deck
Nan Lian Gardens
...and more....

Flag of China  ,
Thursday, June 2, 2011

Only the occasional horking of a man in the immigration line disturbs the organized, structured civilization that welcomes me at Hong Kong airport. Once out of the airport, I am surprised to find that people don't all speak English. My bus driver is the sweetest, but doesn’t understand a word. Neither do I. It all seems simple enough. I know the line #, I know the stop. You'd think that'll do. My interpretation of the reason he puts me on another bus at the last stop is that he missed to point out my stop to me. No harm done, and another bus driver with no mutual language later, I get off and find my hostel.

I am starving by the time I check in. The first accomplishment for me in Hong Kong is that I manage to order and eat at a place that doesn’t even have a name I can read. It’s a hopping, large chain restaurant, serving different brothy, Pho-like items. Apparently, a hit with the locals, so it can’t be bad. You pick up your order when your number is called and displayed. Like a government office. The dish I point-and-order isn’t bad, but doesn’t knock me off my socks either. Too soft-slippery noodles, in a sweet-sour broth, with mostly the fat of a red meat animal, a few sprouts and leeks, and finger-shaped fish balls – that well – just aren’t balls. Maybe they aren’t fish either. But it’s the closest thing that comes to mind to describe their taste. Fills my tummy, that’s all I needed for now.

On my first day in Hong Kong, I continue to be impressed with how well everything functions, efficient and organized. The only difference to the Germanic homeland is the mostly Asian looking people, neon signage galore and over-AC-ed indoors. I find the Indian visa office without a glitch. That’s a good omen, right? The second I walk in, I am relieved. Barely anyone there, quiet, clean, friendly. On first inquiry it sounds like this application will be a walk in the park. A few efficient minutes later, I am done. Now it’s just a matter of time and phone calls to check on my application status. Fingers crossed!

Sitting on a park bench now with the weight of that visa business off my shoulders, I am not sure what to do with myself. As usual, I didn’t read up on my destination yet, so my sight-seeing-to-do-list is still blank. I left behind my SEA guidebook, because Hong Kong was not in it. Presumably, I crossed the border from South East Asia to East Asia. Tonight, I’ll be moving from the hostel to crash at Hubert’s (friend and former colleague from Toronto, who recently moved back here after many years in Canada). Until then, the city is all mine to discover.

A garbage lady with a theatrical hat impresses me when she comes to pick up some crumbled up receipts I have in my lap. How different is that from all the recent countries I traveled, where everyone just drops there garbage anywhere?! It makes me feel oddly lighter.

I spend the day roaming in Kowloon. A quick lunch at a flashy mall has me drawn into the wonders of shopping. I try on bikinis that make me feel like a whale (the largest local size is still too tight for me). Enjoying a book in front of the lit Space Museum I am waiting for Hubes. We last met in Toronto, just a few weeks before I left on this trip. Very cool to be seeing him again here, after over 9 months.

I have to insist on sleeping on the couch. No way I’d let Hubert give up his bed or worse yet, move in with his aunt, just to accommodate me. The couch is the most comfortable thing I have slept on in a very, very long time anyways. I sleep in and while trying to decide whether to spend the day catching up on blogging or heading downtown, a friend from university, Daniela Boehmann,  pings me on facebook. Incredibly, she is in town also, right now, right here. It is 10 years ago that we last met! Small world :) So I rush to meet her for coffee and am excited to catch up after that long.

Over the next few days I am in the lucky position to get a share of Hube’s private life, which includes meeting different groups of his friends and colleagues, mouth-watering restaurants, another shopping 'accident’, one fantabulous day spent on a boat and one wild night out. With the latter, while most everyone around me will be fighting hang-overs, I am confident I’ll just be battling lack of sleep. Somehow, I managed to chat and dance the night away with no more than 4 drinks over 10 or so hours. In my books that’s the perfect amount of intoxication for a bit of fun without the nasty side effects. I guess you know you had a good night, if the sun comes up when you leave the watering holes for your post-party meal, go to sleep when the rest of the world starts waking for their weekend and leave the house for breakfast at 8pm (yes, pm - it's not a typo.... clarifying for those of you who are early morning birds and unable to compute).

By the time my India visa comes through on Friday, all flight prices have gone up, so I continue to bum it out on that comfy couch until Tuesday the following week. In the 11 days I spent in Hong Kong I not only got a view of the skyline from all possible angles, but might have developed a severe crush on this city as well.

Things I noticed and learned about Hong Kong:
-          If you google ‘cleanest subway’, you will find Hong Kong. Even Germany and North America can not compete with the cleanliness and organization I encountered here.
-          The iPhone 3 is not cool enough. Literally everyone sports the latest iPhone 4 as an essential accessory. I don’t recall seeing any Black Berries at all. Interesting.
-          It’s all about the $$$ baby! Status means so much here that women carry branded handbags worth more than a months’ rent. Everyone has their priorities I guess and it’s just another quintessential HK staple.
-          Quote Hubert: "HK is the freest place on earth." I can see that HK is a money making machine, but I question how free people really are that think they need a big car, flashy sunglasses or outrageously priced hand bag to feel a part of it all.
-          HK night life is the biggest meat market I remember seeing anywhere. Watching the dynamics of class-oriented locals and expats at work is fascinating.
-          Expats arriving here either love it or want to get the hell out. I daresay, I’d find myself somewhere in the middle.
-          People work their behinds off. A 12 hour work day is merely normal. Hubert is the exception, trying to keep a bit of a balanced life. Even though he works much less than his business partner, he rarely got home before 8pm or so and avoids weekend work.

Having had a blast and one informal, immediate job opportunity in this pleasant city, leaves me feeling rather tempted to consider moving here for a while. I might not care for the status greed quite as much, but besides that I feel quite at home here. Of course, living in any place wouldn’t be the same as visiting (especially with such a fabulous host ;)). I know that much. Never mind the logistics of potentially loosing my Landed status in Canada. A thought that might remain in my head for a little while to keep mulling over though….
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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