Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hong Kong Travel Journal (May 2004)

Here it is, my Hong Kong travel journal from May 2004. You can follow along with pictures at Flickr (link down on the right).

10:27PM 5/11/04 LAX Airport

Okay...as it turns out I wasn’t able to sum up in the next day or so. Or I didn’t get around to it. But I will soon. I’m starting another trip so I will have time to sum up Las Vegas and then get into this new trip.

I think this is the most I have ever traveled before. Right now I am waiting in line in the International Terminal at LAX. It is the baggage screening line, not the check in line. I have never flown internationally before (Canada doesn’t count) and this is already a new experience. So many lines, so many people. Good thing I got here extra early so no worries. Just lots of standing in line ahead of me.


Now I’m in the check-in line. My bag is in its own line too. So far this line hasn’t moved, but my flight isn’t until 1:20AM so I am not worried. Just hungry.


Done with check-in. The line got quicker when there were no more first class passengers to check in. Now on to security. Boarding isn’t until 12:40AM


There are no seats left at my gate so I walked down to a Singapore Airlines gate. The flight attendants just arrived for this flight that I’m not on. Their uniforms are designed in such a way as to emphasis their hips. I think I love Singapore Airlines. Why I am not on this flight. I must fly them soon. The airline I mean, not the flight attendants. (I don’t know what that means.) Have I mentioned I’ve only gotten 10 hours sleep over the last 4 nights. Soon I may no longer make sense if that hasn’t already set in by now.


This is a huge plane. I think I have only been on a 747 a couple of times in my life and I can’t even remember the last time. I am right up front and looking back, this plane goes a long way. I feel like a little kid right now. I’m very excited to get started. Once we get in the air I’m really going to need to sleep, but right now it’s not going to happen. I’m just too keyed up and excited.


The doors are closing. One step closer to take-off. I haven’t said where I’m going yet, but a clue is that the pre-flight announcement is being given in Mandarin followed by an English version, which seemed shorter.

6783 miles to the destination, where I change planes. There is a display screen with info like the distance so we can follow along. It is 1:34AM here in L.A. and 4:34PM where we are going. I will change my watch soon to get used to that time, if that is possible.

I have never left North America before. Have I mentioned I am excited?

We are taxing now. Once we take-off I guess we just keep going straight. I have always turned back towards the land. Lots of ocean to journey over.

I was just looking at the menu. I wonder what time they serve the first meal.

We are next for take-off. Asia here we come. I’m almost giggling right now I am so happy about this. The lady next to me is already asleep. She must not quite share the same excited feelings I do. Weeee!! Off we go!

The lights of Los Angeles fading away behind us. Blackness below us. Goodbye North America. Hope you don’t miss me, but I’ll be back. About 14 hours from now we will land in Asia.

14 hours. What can you do in that much time. Hmmm.... Maybe watch 7 movies... fly from L.A. to Boston and back to L.A. with time to spare.... Drive from Baltimore to Miami (granted, driving really fast, but it can be done).

I’ll write down more when I think of it. Just on sensory overload at the moment, especially considering how tired I am. I don’t think I will have a problem sleeping when the time comes.

2AM Los Angeles time

I guess we are now on Asia time. Supper will be served soon. I need to start thinking like it is 5PM now. Good thing I forgot to take the melatonin I brought with me or I would have slept through supper. I’ll take some after and then try to sleep.

Looking at the menu, I get a choice of stir fried pork with mountain yam (I like the idea of the yam more than the pork) or penne pasta and salmon with creamed sauce. Having fish on a plane worries me a bit, but I think I’ll choose that over pork. I also brought with me 3 peanut butter sandwiches, almonds, and fig newtons so I am good for food.

Thursday 5/13/04 5:15PM Hong Kong (Big Giveaway!)

Too tired to write. Must eat. Must sleep.

Where am I! Wherever it is I must be happy. :)

Friday 5/14/04 8:20AM

Out of the room this early. That is pretty good for me. Of course that it helps that I went to bed at 7PM and woke up first at 3:30AM, rolled over, and then woke up for good at 6AM. At 6AM, lying in bed, I had no idea where I was for a moment there. At first I thought I was in my bed at home. Finally the gears in my head locked into place and I realized I was in a bed in Hong Kong.

I was writing this waiting for the Star Ferry to take me over to Hong Kong Island, the original outpost of Hong Kong. I am staying on the Kowloon side. The ferries leave very often so I didn’t have to wait long. Plus it is only a few minutes ride, everything is so close here. Every time I go outside wearing my glasses they fog up. There is such a difference between the air conditioning inside and the humidity/heat outside that the glasses just fog up instantly. It doesn’t last long, but it is funny.

Locals are going to find me annoying. I keep stopping right in the middle of the sidewalk to look around. I do this a lot.

9:54AM Hong Kong Island..... very wet

We have rain. Makes for a great time to have breakfast. I have no idea where I am. But the UCC Coffee Cafe is in perfect position for me to escape the very heavy rain. Cinnamon french toast awaits.

I have a small umbrella with me, but once the heavy rain set in I started to get pretty wet. Once this stops I expect the heat of the day to dry me off nicely.

When I got off the ferry I started walking towards the location of the Hong Kong Tourist Board office, but I never found it. There is another office on Kowloon that I should be able to find easier.

The french toast is here. Very tasty. I learned how to say please/thank you (same word) from a good friend of mine who is from Hong Kong. It sounds like “mmmmGoy”. I must be saying it correctly so far since none of the waitresses have slapped my face so far.

After not finding the tourist office I started to wander south (I think), which is up. There is an outdoor covered walkway that also has an escalator. It is one way with wide steps next to it. In the morning it goes in the direction of people going to work, north, which is towards the city center. At some point later in the morning the direction of the escalator changes. At that point it is ready for people going up hill and going home from work later in the day. It is in sections so there is still some walking to be done, but most of the up/down part of the walk has an escalator. It must be a big help in the afternoon for people going home from work since that is the up direction. I was going in the up direction, but walking, with most people going in the opposite direction. It started to get steeper so I got off the walkway and went down to the street since I recognized the name, Hollywood Road. A lot of the shops still were not open so I kept walking. I came upon an outdoor market area. It stretched for a few narrow blocks. Fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, and meat all being picked over by local (mostly) women. Meat hanging in some store fronts, ready to be cut. Fish in tanks and some flopping about on trays. Then the rain came, quickly got heavy, and I was able to find my way to this cafe. Time to move on. Maybe to a local temple and the former British Government House.

11AM ... not quite as wet

I am about to go into the Man Mo Temple. I can already smell the incense from outside. I haven’t smelled incense this strong since being around my cousin, who used to use incense to try to cover up the fact that he smoked pot like a fish drinks water. I don’t think the temple uses the incense for the same reason.

11:51 AM

Again, I don’t know where I am. Well, that is not exactly true. I have a map so I kinda know where I am, but I’m not sure how to get where I am going, plus I’m not really sure where I want to go. That might help. Deciding on that. I think when going someplace new it is a good idea to walk and get yourself lost and see what you find along the way. It may be very interesting. But have a good map with you. Maybe I should have mentioned that first. A good map in hand. Don’t look at it and get yourself lost. See what you find. And then look at the map again. Doing it without a map might be crazy. And now back to walking towards someplace, of which I have no idea.

12:01 PM Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens

Excellent! I made it to the Gardens, and I didn’t even know that I wanted to be here. But it’s on my map. This should be nice.

It sounds like I am walking near a school. All schools must sound the same, no matter the country. Kids and kids. It seems like I am on a path to the Gardens. With residential buildings to my left. One must be a school.

2:10 PM The Peak

Eating a muffin, drinking some lemon tea, and enjoying the incredible view from high above Hong Kong.

I’ve been up here for awhile, walking around and taking in the view from different vantage points. Time to rest and figure where to go next.

Saturday 5/15/04 3:52 PM The Peninsula Hotel Lobby

I am here for afternoon tea. Apparently this is “the place” for afternoon tea. I’ve been waiting in line for 10 minutes and looking at the line and little I have moved, I expect to be waiting for quite some time. But this is okay. I have nothing better to do and I am looking forward to the tea and finger sandwiches.

I should have more time to write once I am seated, and a lot more time to write tomorrow since I am going to a race track, just to see what that is like. Since I don’t gamble on horse racing I will have a lot of time to write to pass the time away. The track is north of here and it will be good to see a different part of the countryside.

4:30 PM Seated for tea!

I think I’m going to have the classic earl grey tea. It also comes with many finger sandwiches. Earl grey is a regular black tea with just a hint of orange. A very nice and subtle flavor.

Everything is very good. I am split between wanting to write about what I am doing and actually doing what I am doing. I think I will eat.

There is a quartet or quintet playing classical music. I am almost done. So much for writing. This has been an enjoyable experience. Too bad there isn’t a view of the water. With that this experience would be perfect.

I think I just figured out what the extra hot water is for. When the tea was brought out it was in it’s own pot, the tea leaves already in it, ready to be served. In another pot was milk, which I do not put in my tea, but many people do. In a third pot is hot water. I had no idea. I was slowly drinking my last cup of tea, trying to make it last as long as possible, thinking that was the last cup and I would have to leave soon. Out of curiosity I looked into the now empty tea pot, and upon seeing the tea leaves at the bottom of the pot, I realized that the extra pot of hot water was to make another pot of tea. Brilliant! I filled up the pot of tea leaves with water and now I can stay even longer. And then they even gave me another pot of hot water. Since there is almost no one waiting to be seated I I have no guilt about staying as long as I want (well..... almost no guilt).

5:55 PM

All done.

6:10 PM Kowloon harbor front facing Hong Kong Island

great weather, great temperature and a nice little breeze. I’m down on a walkway right on the water facing Hong Kong Island. The sun hasn’t set yet, but it is coming soon. It’s crowded here, but not in a bad way. It’s a happy crowd. And there is still room to get around. This seems to be a happy place. Lots of people holding hands and many families.

Sunday 5/16 11:23 AM

I am on my way to the big horse racing track. It is a little outside of town so I am hopeful that I will get to see some of the countryside.

We are in traffic now. Makes me feel like we are in Los Angeles, yuck! The tour guide is going over the betting rules, I think in Mandarin, for the benefit of some of the guests who are from Beijing. The guide speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, English and who knows how many other languages.

It turns out the traffic is because of an accident.

3:45 PM

The day is passing by very quickly. So much for the idea of having time to write. We were given $30 HK vouchers to bet with. I won a few times so i have been betting with their money. This is all part of the package tour (except for the winning part... that is just like). We get to stay up in the club, which has A/C (thank goodness). We have a very nice view from up here, able to see the entire area.

9:20 PM The Peak (again)

Finally sitting down for dinner. I don’t think I have had a sit down dinner yet. I went to bed just after 7PM the first night after being a zombie boy for that first day. Wait... maybe I did have dinner that first day. Yes, I remember now. A place called Ruby Tuesday (I wonder what the Beatles think of that title, or maybe it is the Rolling Stones. Come to think of it I do think it is a Stones song.) So I did have what turns out to be an utterly forgetable dinner that first night. A good burger, with a waiter who was still training (by a very cute supervisor who was very patient), so the service was very slow.

Note to self, do not order a margarita again. Hard to say exactly what is wrong with it, but something is very wrong. I’ll still drink it because I think an alcoholic drink is more expensive that the dinner here, but yuck! But... as with most alcoholic drinks, it is tasting better the more I drink it. Funny how that works.

A very nice dinner. Fried calamari (not too deep fried, which is good, usually in the U.S. it is too deep fried), cream of mushroom soup (very tasty), and a steak (nothing fancy, but nice). The dessert hasn’t come yet. This was a set meal. I haven’t had the guts yet to have a real chinese meal. I know what it will be like since I have been exposed to real chinese food by friends in L.A., but it is so different from what I am used to eating that I just haven’t gotten the nerve yet to have a meal like that here yet. Cantonese food often involves fish (since it is so close to the ocean I guess) and the flavors and smells are so completely different from what we grow up eating in the U.S. There are stores upon stores selling dried fish parts (and other types of sea life) as well as stores selling dried meat parts (I won’t even get into the different meat parts available.) All of these foods are a big part of Cantonese food, the tastes and the textures, and these are all incredibly different from what we eat in the U.S. At some point I will go to a traditional Cantonese restaurant here in HK, but for now there are enough other types of restaurants to satisfy my appetite. So many in fact that I am finding it hard to choose. Pretty nice to have such a problem. I do feel very lucky at times to have such a problem. Very Lucky!

Monday 5/17/04 10:45 AM

I am switching hotels. I stayed in a very nice hotel next to a very large shopping complex (the largest in Asia I’m told) right next to the water. For the next 3 nights (4 days) I will be staying in a more budget style hotel. I am sitting in the lobby and it seems like a nice hotel. I think the rooms are much smaller. I will be taking tours these next few days so the room doesn’t concern me too much. The location of this hotel is still good. It is very easy to walk around here in HK that the hotel location isn’t too important. It was really nice being where I was the first few days. It took me a while to really get used to the time change and being next to everything helped a lot. Now that I have walked around a lot and have a good idea where everything is located, it doesn’t really matter where I stay.

Why Am I Here?

In the journalism business this would be called Burying The Lead and it is usually not a good thing. I think I skipped this part since it is hard to explain why I am here. At some point I will be able to put it into words, but not just yet it seems.

I am very happy to be here (have I mentioned that yet). Hong Kong is the best place I have ever been to, including where I am living now. Every place has it’s faults, and I’m sure this place does as well, but the happiness of the people is really great. Generally, being a tourist, you don’t end up in downtrodden places and don’t hear about problems, but even if I was here for a long time I think the happiness of the people and the underlying reasons for that happiness would outweigh any inevitable problems that were to come up.

11:15 AM

Maybe I could sum up my little Las Vegas trip back in April. I never really did that. Just too busy doing things and then too tired to write about it afterwards. Maybe flying out right after work didn’t help matters. I was on the go from that point on. Plus the flight is so short to Las Vegas from L.A. you just sit there excited instead of relaxing, reading, or writing. In short I think Vegas went like this:


I noticed I didn’t write the word shower in the above summary. I can assure you I showered at least once a day, every morning, and probably twice a day. I try to be a very clean person. Some people are night shower people, but I am a morning shower person. It helps wake me up plus I tend to get really bad “bed head” so the shower gets what little hair I have back in order.

One gambling tip. I don’t gamble much, but I have learned that in order to have fun and to be happy when you are done is to not count your money. Let me explain. Beforehand decide how much you want to gamble with, also know how much you can lose, because the casino has the advantage so you will most likely lose. Once you start gambling do not count your money. The whole idea is to enjoy the gambling experience, which is putting your money on the line, a pretty unique feeling. If you count your money during this process you will be reminded that you are losing money, which will take away from the fun of the gambling experience. If you count your money and you are lucky enough to actually be winning then you should just stop right then. From that point forward all you will be thinking about is the fact that you were up at one point and you lost it (because you most likely will lose it). So if you are going to gamble set a time limit and a money limit. Once you reach one of those limits just walk away. Hopefully you enjoyed the experience and the feeling, the “rush” that is gambling. If you were lucky enough to reach your time limit before your money limit, then maybe just maybe you won some money and at the very least you didn’t lose as much as you had planned.

Probably best to not even gamble. I only do it once or twice a year plus I happen to find craps to be a fun game.

And that was Las Vegas. I’ve always gone for a convention. At some point I should go just to hang out and relax. Many of the hotels have expansive pool complexes and the hotels are a pretty good value during the week when I have my days off from work. I keep saying to myself to do it, but I haven’t yet. Someday.... Someday.

No comments: