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Monday 4th October - Hong Kong
By Claire
Saturday, 9th October 2004 04:29

We had no intention of getting up early this morning, and other than the maid knocking on the door at eight, eight-thirty and about ten, I slept late. It was a nice feeling. We also had no plans for the day, except to read our email. When we first started out, in April, we had thought we'd check our mail once or twice a week, and until we went to Chile and had free internet in the basement, that's what we did. But once we got into the habit, leaving email for more than a day feels strange. So we wandered into town and had a look at what was going on.

Hong Kong was not what I was expecting at all. It was a lot more Chinese, with less of a colonial English feel, the roads weren't nearly as busy and there was lovely bamboo scaffolding on some of the buildings. Very rustic and hardly high-tech. We're staying on Hong Kong Island, in Causeway Bay, which is one of the shopping and restaurant centres. There were very few street stalls, and none from carts, but a lot of expensive-looking designer shops and masses of malls. But Hong Kong is like an upside-down iceberg - there's about 90% more of it above the line of sight. We realised that we'd have to consider all twelve or so floors above every doorwe passed.

We stopped for a second to have a look at our map and work out which would be the best area to try, when a Kiwi in a business suit strode by. He did a comic double-take and then came back to ask if we needed a hand. He gave us directions to a coffee bar with free internet and then hurried off, clearly in a rush but with enough time to help us out. Made us feel good.

We found the place with little difficulty, it was just the wrong side of where we were looking. The mall was just like all the big shiny shopping centres in Bangkok and Malaysia, complete with giant television screens outside and people handing out vouchers and coupons (all in Chinese), and three of every kind of shop inside. The coffee house was just inside the door, and offered free internet to customers, so we had sandwiches and checked our email. I've only been into one other coffee place ever, but it wasn't that exciting. Then we went shopping.

I've always hated shopping intensely, but it has become a bit more enjoyable recently when we've had nothing else we needed to do. I bought a couple of polarising filters for my camera (I know it's been six and a half months and it's a bit too late for most of the pictures, but they were just there...) and looked into iPods (I know we decided not to buy any cos we've run out of spending money, but they were just there...) which were considerably cheaper here than anwhere else we've been (but we didn't buy one) and ice cream. I had a couple of films developed too, we got some cash and paid Tommy the hotel man for the rest of our stay (and ended up listening to the benefits of Vietnamese cuisine, regular bowel movements and something to do with fruit) and then we wandered into town again to find some duck for supper.

We thought that my favourite Chinese dish, crispy aromatic duck, would be easy to find here, but we were wrong. Almost all the ground-floor restaurants were fast-food places (as in fresh food cooked really quickly, rather than just things that have been hanging around for a while keeping warm) and with roasted animals hanging in the window, but none of the menus (that we could read) offered what we were after. We saw a couple of proper restaurants on higher floors of buildings and went to find them. One was solely seafood, one was all in Chinese and by the third one we were hungry so we went in and had a look. There were a lot of organs and bones and fish parts on the menu but no duck. We stuck to safe beef, which wasn't great.

It was almost midnight when we'd finished, and all the shops were still open. The neon signs and spotlights made it look like noon. We popped in quickly to save us going back tomorrow, and then finally went to sleep.

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