My Time in the
'City of Lights'...
View of Hong Kong Island.
Me and Mr. Wong.
|On Ladder Street. Can you guess where the name
October 30, 2006
There are those moments where journaling seems like an absolute nightmare. I just have no desire to do it. I am currently having one of
those moments. I am now on a flight from Hong Kong to Singapore. I realize I have no written about anything I did while I was in Hong
Kong. I probably had some time but I experienced something I call ‘procrastination’. Now that I am on a plane, I told myself that I have to
finish all of my Hong Kong journaling before I land.
This is now made especially difficult as I just finished my fourth glass of wine. But I will try…
As I recall, Day #1 in Hong Kong started with Mr. Wong (Suzanne and Daniel’s driver) dropping me off on Hollywood Road. None of the
shops were opened but that didn’t bother me. I was just out exploring and learning this new city. I stopped by Man Mo Temple since it
was right there. I am sure this temple is very worship-worthy to Buddhists…but it would rank as ‘just another temple’ in my book. I think
I might possibly be immune to the smells of incense these days…
I was in my own little world wandering around. One thing that stands out in my mind was coming across a fruit stand that was selling just
about every tropical fruit under the sun. This was when I spotted a fruit that I have come to love…but had not yet learned the actual
name of. All I knew is that it looked like a cross between an artichoke and the skin of a reptile. I know that doesn’t sound very
appetizing…but the fruit that lurks underneath is pretty darn incredible in my book.
After I was done roaming around I met up with Mr. Wong and he drove me to the IFC building so that I could check out some shops. The
IFC building is the tallest building in the skyline and it provides several floors of shopping pleasure. I found a simple wrinkle-free dress at
Zara. Though it’s not my favorite at least it will do the trick while I’m traveling through the warmer climates.
I met up with Suzanne and we headed over to the AIG building where we met up with her friend, Andrea, and listened to the Hong Kong
Philharmonic play to wrap up their week of performances. All of this while looking out and seeing views of the skyscrapers of Central Hong
Suzanne was noting how clear it was that day. Apparently it is a rarity to actually be able to see the buildings that are in close proximity.
Definitely one of the downfalls to this part of Asia – the extremely polluted air. But this would not be a factor that day as there was enough
of a breeze to push the smog away. When we were at the performance, Suzanne suggested taking advantage of the nice weather and hiking
up to the Peak. Sounded good to me!
We got ready and met Andrea part way up the hill. Then we hiked up to the Peak. It felt nice to get some ‘activity’ into my day. I was able
to see the Hong Kong skyline from above. I have to say that I might be in the minority…but I find such beauty in skyscrapers. I think only
a person who absolutely loves the city could make such a claim.
That night Suzanne and I went into Lan Kwai Fong – the part of Central Hong Kong that revolves around restaurants and bars. We went
to a great Italian restaurant which was like her ‘Cheers’ as everybody seemed to know her name. We sat, drank, ate and gabbed away.
The next day I have no idea what I even did. Hmmm…. Let me think about this. I’m racking my brain, racking my brain, racking my
Oh! We decided to go shopping in China. How quickly I forget these things. In my defense, it is easy to forget when you are denied entry
into a country.
I had thought it might be a problem and I showed Suzanne my visa. She said it shouldn’t be a problem and then I realized that she was
right – I entered China for the first time on October 1st and I have a visa where I could enter twice in thirty days. In my world, that
meant I could enter one more time before November 1st even though my actual visa expired on October 14th. The visa just states that
you have to enter the country before that date. So I thought I was clear.
As the story goes, I thought wrong.
Hong Kong might currently be part of China but it is still exempt from being…well…part of China. I neglected to think that now that I was
in Hong Kong I had left China and would have to make a whole new official entrance into the country. The problem? It was now October
28th and that didn’t quite fall into the October 14th deadline.
My hopes and dreams of fun new purses and watches died a slow death at the border while waiting for the border officials to give me back
my passport. The longer they made us wait, the more false hope I was getting. But that was all it was…false hope. I personally think a
person deserves something for the hassle of taking the train all the way out there just to get sent right back onto that train. Maybe just a
‘Denied!’ stamp to show your efforts? But I was sent back with nothing. The only person who probably benefited from this was Daniel as
Suzanne was now unable to go shopping that day.
This outing wasn’t a total loss for Suzanne. I informed her of the new experience she had of not being able to cross the Chinese border.
Well, at least being with somebody who was not allowed to cross the Chinese border.
Suzanne informed Mr. Wong that we were on our way back. Probably not the news he wanted. He was probably muttering under his
breath about the dumb American girl who couldn’t figure out the rules with her visa. Just kidding. He seemed too nice to think that. I’m
apparently thinking about what I would have been saying to myself if I was in his position.
We got dropped off at Central and Suzanne showed me some places where I could update my wardrobe and all that fun stuff. I knew I
would be coming back here the next day. After all, I made a promise to myself to buy some new threads while I was in Asia. I would start
here and hopefully find a few more things in Thailand and Vietnam.
After lunch we headed back to the house to relax. After all, shopping can be hard work. Wait. I didn’t shop today. I attempted to shop and
then I got ideas of where to shop…but I never actually shopped. I guess we proved that exhaustion comes from the mere thought of
After a brief rest, Suzanne thought that my driving tour of the New Territories (we accomplished something from driving all the way to
and from Shenzen) wasn’t enough. Mr. Wong picked us up and drove us around Hong Kong Island so I could see Stanley Bay and Repulse
Bay. We drove along the coast and it was incredible that one minute we were seeing nothing but huge skyscrapers…and the next minute
we were in natural surroundings without a building in sight. All I can say is that I was loving Hong Kong!
The other great thing about this drive was that I could actually see the color of the water for the first time since I arrived in Hong Kong.
Could this really be true? During this drive, I realized how much I take my beloved San Francisco Bay for granted. And, for that matter,
the sky above it. When the weather is nice at home, the water and sky are a bright blue. If the weather is nice here, you are just lucky to
see the buildings across the harbor. Seriously. During ‘normal’ Hong Kong weather, these buildings can just seem like a hazy imagination.
San Franciscans should really be happy about the high cost of parking and fuel which eliminates the masses of drivers. The reward we get
is being able to see over to the East Bay/Oakland. Thinking about this, some might not actually see this as a reward…
We stopped off at the American Club and Suzanne brought me in so that I could see it. It is right next to the coastline and has a great view.
But that wasn’t the part that really impressed me. They had a market that sold goodies from home (since mostly ex-pats are members).
Most of these goodies I hadn’t seen for over six months. For that reason, I couldn’t stop myself from buying a Diet A&W root beer.
Luckily, I drew the line at buying Nerds or Pepperidge Farm cookies.
That night Suzanne took me to a great Italian restaurant at the IFC building. As we got into the cab, I would see what Hong Kong residents
are now experiencing.
There were many rules-of-sorts that were laid out in the deal when Britain was going to be handing Hong Kong over to China. One was
that English was to remain the primary language for fifty years from 1997. I witnessed that this, in fact, is not really the case. Keep in mind
that the IFC building is the tallest of the bunch. It is also only three letters long (though it stands for International Financial Centre) and,
therefore, should not be difficult to understand. Well, it shouldn’t be if you’re a taxi driver that understands any English. Which he was not.
He had to pull over and call a dispatcher to find out what we were trying to say. Even the dispatcher was having a hard time with this.
After Suzanne explained for nearly one minute what building we were talking about, the dispatcher was finally able to communicate it to
the driver. Geez. These people were making the Indians named ‘Mike’ and ‘Joe’ that answer the phone when I have an ipod problem an
absolute dream to talk to.
Once again, a great dinner was had (probably impossible for penne with lobster to not be great) and was made even better with the views
of the skyline we had from our table. After dinner we went outside to take in the fresh air and the bright lights. Have I mentioned that I
love this city???
The next day I was going to venture out on my own as Suzanne and Daniel had their own thing to do (the horse races). I was really happy
Suzanne got to have a break from me as I felt bad that she might have felt like she needed to entertain me. Now she could have some
alone time. You know how the saying goes about houseguests. If not, here it is:
What do fish and houseguests have in common?
After three days, they both stink.
I was moving into Day #3. Therefore I was starting to stink (but not literally as I got to have hot showers whenever I wanted).
I could have opted to do some venturing out to see some sights (like a giant Buddha) but I decided to go shopping instead. My rationale
was that I knew I would be out there again so I can save things to do for when that time comes. For now I was going to ride up the Central
Escalator. This is an escalator that is broken up into many segments and runs from Central to the Mid-Levels. During the morning hours,
it runs going down since the rush of people are coming from their homes in the Mid-Levels and going down to their offices in Central. The
rest of the day the escalator runs going upwards. I used to think it was cool that I got to commute to work on a cable car. I think riding an
escalator to work is definitely giving that some competition.
I walked through the SoHo area and came across a bunch of ten New Yorkers with their thick accents. I am not lying or exaggerating when
I say that they were literally yelling to each other in conversation while standing within four feet of each other. The topics ranged from one
lady talking about all of the restaurants on the main street in SoHo (Thank you, Captain Obvious), another one talking about how some of
the others in the group had to take the escalators to the top, another one talking about a watch that she saw and its price and another one
was talking about just coming from an antiques shop. My question was ‘Why do people think that everybody within a fifty-foot radius
wants to hear what they are saying?’
I finally made my way down to the alleys to buy some new clothes (see Operation: ‘Update Wardrobe’). I also stopped at a fruit stand
because I saw my ugly-but-oh-so-delicious fruit. I had to buy another piece of it. The woman at the stand spoke good English and I asked
her the name of it. The name of it is…(drumroll)…a custard apple. Ahhh, I can now sleep at night.
It was almost getting dark so I took the Star Ferry over to Kowloon. This ferry is dirt cheap yet provides some of the greatest views of the
Hong Kong skyline. Once over on Kowloon, my mission was to head to the main street over there – Nathan Road. When I saw this in
Lonely Planet, I was so excited as I have never had a main street named after me. Okay, okay. I know that the street wasn’t necessarily
named after me, per se. I guess I should say ‘a street with which I share a name’. I walked out there and my excitement quickly turned to
shame. This was what I shared a name with??? Nothing but cheap electronics and hole-in-the-wall eateries. I think I spent about twenty
minutes in Kowloon before I started yearning for Hong Kong Island. So I jumped back on the ferry and made my way back.
When I got back, I walked out to the Peak Tram so I could go up and see the views in the evening. This is definitely more of a funicular
than a tram (considering I think of trams that are on a cable raised above the ground). The views from the top absolutely could not be
beat. To be looking down on huge skyscrapers and the lights of the city is incredible. Truly stunning.
The fun part about taking the tram home was that I didn’t have to get off at the main stop. I got to let the operator know that I wanted to
get off one stop before in the Mid-Levels. This way, all I had to do was walk down a few minutes from their to get to Suzanne and Daniel’s
When I got back, I would finally meet Daniel (as he had been in China for business since I had arrived). Such a nice guy! They told me
about their day at the races and I told them about my day of not really doing too much of anything.
This morning was my last day in Hong Kong. I couldn’t believe that my time here was already over. As I said earlier, I know I will be
returning. I just don’t know when…