Saturday, May 13, 2006

Episode IV: A New Hope

Landing in Hong Kong... well... I was uncomfortable.

For over a year I had been living in China, mainland China. I won't say I had gone local, but I had at least come to equate my standards with that of what surrounded me. Hong Kong...

Think of those sci fi movies that might have brought you awe in the 1970s but now bring scoff. Now think of those movies not as movies, but as actual life. Thats Hong Kong.

Moving walkways. Superfast trains. Blinding neon lights. Every possible convenience made as convenient as possible. Which isn't to say the city is not without its price, sho' nuff, its expensive as hell. But I don't think I've ever been as wowed by a city as I was by Hong Kong. My father immediately ranked it in his top three most dramatic cities, up with San Francisco and some other metropolis that I can't recall.

And, as a side note, the women are devastatingly gorgeous.

From the airport to the hotel (via uber-quiet, ultra-fast train system) we wound through forest, hill, port, industry, till we hit commerce. Getting settled, we hit the streets to head to the Peak, Hong Kong's highest point. Walking along the streets, it was easy to see that this city sweated capitalism... so much money... it did intimidate me. Expecially after a year in Harbin. But luckily as long as my parents were around I was not spending any of my own, so, "meiguanxi!"

Now to ascend The Peak one must take the Peak Tram, but I couldn't concentrate on any of this as Clavellian drama kept leaping through my little head. Distractions soon disapated once we hit the summit and the breathtaking panorama that is Hong Kong spread itself wide upon in front of us. I wish I knew more about architecture to capture the beauty that lay in front of us, and I wish the weather had been a bit more clear so that my camera could have done a better job taking the place of my words... but... wow.

Now I gotta state that I did have one problem with Hong Kong: for the time that we were there, it was clear that for the most part we were going to focus on shopping or simply exploring the city. Where in BeiJing one might hunt down cultural/historic landmarks, or in HangZhou wander through tea fields and kilns, here, well, we we're going to shop. So be it. Luckily Hong Kong is a British city in full regards suplanted upon Asia, so the windy streets, intense neighborhoods, and money combined with the whole Asian flavor of it all kept me entertained wherever we went.

One night I bounded about (solo) in Wan Chai, hitting a few pubs and dodging some enthusiastic women. I did find great entertainment taking in a rugby match with some true Brits, also in how one fellow bar rat had trained his 2 year old to snag him pints from behind the bar. Another night we wandered Kowloon hunting for the perfect fake purse. During the days we explore each corner of the island, and if I can rec' a taxi ride, take one from Aberdeen to Stanley along the South China Sea. The cliffs drop away to the water in a way so pronouced that you never might realize greena and blue might be so different. The thin beaches that seperated land from sea provide only a pencil-thin reminder of reality... but the markets at the end of the ride will snap you right back into that oh-so-fun bargaining mode.

In Aberdeen we hit up one of the quintessetial tourist activities for Hong Kong, one so crucial to my experience I'd classify it as a duty to anyone who reads this blog and finds themselves in Hong Kong one day. Aberdeen harbor itself won't give you the melodramatic shock that you might find in "Tai Pan," but it will give you one of the world's largest floating restaurants. The only way to get to the eatery is by sampan. Well, skip the restaurant and take a seperate sampan tour of the harbor. Weaving in and out of the boat people while never leaving site of the striking sky scrapers will give you a good idea that no matter how far Asia might move into the future its past will never be forsaken.

But we didn't limit ourselves to British imperialism, oh, no sir-ree-bob!

One day we did jump a HOVERCRAFT to Macao. Now:
1. When I was a boy I begged Santa Claus one year for a single gift, forsaking anything else (save underwear) for the single joy that was Tyco's Typhoon. What was the Typhoon? A remote controlled hovercraft. Years ahead of the standard RC car technology of the day. I had to wait months till I could actually use it, but man was it awesome. And ever since I've been fascinated my hovercrafts, enough so that when I found that my pre-teen text book brought up the subject while I was teaching English class got a little hi-jacked to indulge in my interest. Needless to say, that lesson went over a few heads.
2. Macao was a Portuguese settlement. I know nothing about Portugal and always wanted to know more. Its a small country on the west of Spain and its well known for its cork and... naval power during the 15th century.
So Macao promised to tickle my interest. It did. Enough for a day's excursion through the even more claustrophobic streets that wound up and down the hills. I couldn't understand any language here, seemed like a combo of Chinese/English/Portuguese reigned. There certainly were casinos galore, but I stuck to the hill forts, Jesuit cathedrals, and coffe shops.

Hong Kong was pretty much awesome, the perfect afterdinner mint to a wonderful feast of China adventure with my parents. They were set to depart, full of stories and experiences of their venture into Asia, I was ready to charge headlong back into mainland China, all full of piss and vinegar. I had run my feet through the South China Sea, supped upon shark fin, and now it was time to return to my home of the past year. Or...


At 7:54 PM, Blogger rbshaw said...

Right on Bill,finally! Great blog
and boy are you waxing eloquent these days.Good writing.Isn't Hong Kong awesome? Just too damn expensive though. I am eagerly
waiting for the rest of the story.

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