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Hong Kong Episode I: The Bantam Menace
By Mikey
Saturday, 9th October 2004 04:57

I was hoping that Cathay would be the nicest airline that we've had so far but I have to say that they disappointed me a little bit. Ok, part of that was perhaps due to high expectations not being met but they did take their time wheeling out their trollies and, for a practically brand new plane, video-on-demand was sadly lacking. Instead I made do with CSi Miami and a documentary about how Arnold Schwarzenegger bought the governorship of California.

Hong Kong claims to be "Asia's World City" and, based on its geographical location, I would not have argued before we arrived. Aside from that, distant memories of it being a British colony and a few other bits of trivia, I wasn't all that sure what to expect.

After we cleared immigration and customs, we found a phone to call our guesthouse for directions. There had been some in our guide book but the chap who we'd been exchanging emails with had asked us to call when we arrived. Under his instructions we took the airport express train and a courtesy bus to the Excelsior hotel and then waited to be collected. A few short minutes later, a woman arrived and walked us a few metres to the guesthouse. We probably wouldn't have found it otherwise.

The guesthouse (the Alisan Guesthouse) was a bit odd in terms of its layout but it more than made up for that with the helpfulness of Tommy, the manager. He spent quite some time showing us where we were on a map and where we could find some good places to eat that night and where we could find dim sum for breakfast. He also suggested that we go across on the ferry and watch the fireworks and the light show at 8pm. That didn't give us much time but we managed to have some very tasty barbecued pork with rice before we took a train to the Star ferry. Following a bit of a bumpy ferry crossing we made our way along the harbour side just in time to watch the fireworks. They weren't stunning (we'd missed national day by two days) but there is something impressive about a pyrotechnic display on top of a city skyline.

We didn't get up very early at all the next day. Hong Kong isn't much of a morning place, mostly it's just office workers and restaurant workers who are up early. So we didn't see any harm in taking things slowly. Very slowly we got up. Very slowly we had a wander around Causeway Bay. Very slowly we did some shopping. That was about it really.

The following day we did just a little bit more. We were determined to find some Crispy Aromatic Duck, supposedly a Cantonese dish, but Tommy didn't think that we'd find it anywhere. He did suggest several places we should go that night - we only went in for a quick chat but stayed for at least 30 minutes. Armed with some restaurant suggestions and menu recommendations we emerged, ready for breakfast and with a plan for the day. Breakfast ended up being a sandwich and then we lugged some heavy bags onto the underground railway for a trip to the post office.

During our time in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia we acquired quite a lot of stuff and we spent quite a while boxing it up. It turned out to weigh just under 10kg and should hopefully reach England just before we do.

We waited outside the post office for the 15C bus that should have taken us up to the Peak Tram. Instead we ended up on the 15 bus (not the same as the 15C) heading in what we thought was completely the wrong direction. The 15, however, ends up in the same place as the 15C / Peak Tram combination but just takes a slightly more indirect route. The view from the top of Victoria Peak is more than worth the effort of getting up there although it was odd finding a shopping mall up there.

Having taken several photos, we took a short walk along one of the paths up there before coming back down on the tram. We didn't do too much that evening that we hadn't done before, eat, internet and sleep.

I came down with a cold that night, most unfortunately. It always seems to happen either after a plane flight, a change in climate or when I get to relax after being busy for a while. So if it were actually possible, we tried to do even less the following day. We started out with dim sum for breakfast at Tommy's suggested dim sum restaurant. A fine idea except that the restaurant staff weren't very good at English and the menus were 100% pure Chinese. Eventually they rolled out one guy who could at least say "beef", "fish" and "chicken". We managed to convey the idea that we didn't want fishy dishes and that anything with chicken would be ok with us. He then held out one hand, like a menacing claw and with horror we realised that he was suggesting chicken feet.

We were floundering and facing the possibility of a very interesting breakfast when the lady at the next table stepped in to help. With her help, we chose five non-fishy dishes and thanked her profusely. Unfortunately, our definitions of "fish" differed slightly and three of our five dim sum had prawns in them. Well, I say unfortunately, I didn't mind really, I like prawns.

The next part of our big master plan involved organising trains in China for when we get back from Japan. It turns out though that we needed our visas sorted first so the trains will have to wait. Our plan then entailed finding a cinema and watching a Hong Kong film called 2046. The posters for the film suggested something mysterious and futuristic but the reality was a sort of love story set in the 1960s and involving androids somehow. I didn't quite get it.

Suitably bemused, we got on the tram back up to Victoria Peak to take some night shots. We were a bit early and some huge salads for supper as we watched night fall and the lights come on. It didn't seem like too long to wait for the fireworks and light show again so we stayed and watched from the other side this time.

Our final day in Hong Kong, for now, was spent mostly in an internet caf* catching up on a few things. We arranged to come back to Hong Kong and the Alisan Guesthouse after our short trip to Japan although because there's a big conference or something going on we'll have to switch rooms and hotels at some point while we're back. We'll be going to see The Eagles when they play in Hong Kong and possibly taking a trip to Macau for a day. We should also have a fair bit of time to organise our trip to China.

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