Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hong Kong, day four

We languished in our hotel room until 1:30 p.m. (Tuesday, August 6), waiting for the downpour to clear up. Then we caught the train (HK$27!) to Disneyland and spent four or five hours there. 

It was surprisingly small and easy to navigate. We only did five rides: Space Mountain, the Fantasyland Carousel, the Jungle River Cruise, Mystic Manor, and Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, plus some obligatory souvenir shopping. The longest we had to wait in line was 50 minutes. The Chinese were loud, rude, and pushy...pretty typical. Nothing like Tokyo Disneyland, let me tell you! 

The biggest enemy was HK's summer heat: hot, still, and humid. We were drenched with sweat within seconds of arriving, and bottles of water cost a whopping HK$25 (around $3.25 US). We splurged and got a big bag of caramel popcorn for HK$38, and that put our spirits to rights. 

We had dinner at Le Souk, a Moroccan-Lebanese-Egyptian restaurant in SoHo. We barely made it up the escalators before more rain came pounding down. We chewed very slowly on our chicken shish kebabs and lamb stew (with Coke and Kronenbourg to wash it down), but we had to order another plate of Lebanese hummus and savor it before the rain truly stopped. 

No sooner had we clambered aboard a streetcar for North Point when MORE rain hit. We were getting pretty lucky today. I was nursing the back of my right ankle. My old Airwalk flip-flops had no tread left after tramping all over Southeast Asia, and stepping on wet granite tiles was like walking on ice. I slipped coming down the stairs from SoHo and gashed my ankle on the cracked, crumbling concrete stair. Back in Room 2504, I washed the wound in the shower and sprayed it with disinfectant while Miss H went for a late-night massage at the parlor on the hotel's second floor. Then we packed up and turned in. 

Our last day in Hong Kong was done. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hong Kong, day three

As of Tuesday, August 5, I'd built up an impressive store of alcohol in Room 2504 of the ibis North Point Hotel. I nabbed a small bottle of White Horse blended Scotch the first night, and there was a bottle of Gambler's Gold (the Hong Kong Brewing Company's golden ale) and some Magners cider in our mini-fridge also.

I was sitting pretty.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

We awoke quite late and had a languorous breakfast at the hotel buffet: Danishes, toast, noodles, baked beans, runny scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, sausage, pancakes, bacon, potatoes, fruit, yogurt, congee (rice porridge), cereal, tea, coffee, orange juice...everything but blood pudding. Miss H and I had were pigging out on it every morning. It cost about HK$66 ($8 US), so we had to get our money's worth. 

We were foiled in most our plans today. We wanted to ride the cable car or trolley or whatever up to Victoria Peak, but last night Jeff had warned me that it would be crowded as hell up there, and the lines would be ridiculous. We thought next of taking the open-top bus tour, but upon arriving at the terminus at Central Piers we discovered that it cost HK$400—fifty U.S. dollars a pop. No way, Jose. We briefly considered the Star Ferry harbor tour, but that was eighty-three U.S. dollars. Rather dejected, we went back to the hotel to regroup. I polished off the cider and the Scotch and felt mighty fine.  

We dined at 6:00 p.m. at a marvelous little Sapporo ramen restaurant a couple of doors down from the hotel. For just a couple hundred HK dollars we had dumplings, beef tongue, tonkatsu curry with rice (Miss H), and a big heaping bowl of Hokkaido ramen with pork (me). Great guns—I'd heard Hokkaido ramen and its light brown miso-laden broth was the shiz, but but the reality blew me away. Best ramen these lips have been privileged to taste. Can't wait to get back to Sapporo and have the real deal.  

Not my photo.

To keep the Japanese theme going, Miss H and I boarded the streetcar and rode to Burrows Street to visit the Hokkaido Dairy Farm "Milk Restaurant." Not sure what their gimmick was—I guess all their dairy products came from Hokkaido, and all their food was cooked with it. I'd read that Hokkaido ice cream was a delicacy in Hong Kong, and unlike most "delicacies" which interest me, this was something Miss H could sample too. We had a vanilla sundae with chocolate and adzuki bean sauce—superb. 

For kicks, we stepped across the road and into the Wellcome supermarket to get a look at what Hong Kongers mow down on. There was a staggering array of western foods, including Cadbury's chocolate—nearly impossible to find in other Asian countries and nonexistent in Korea, much to all my English friends' chagrin. I bought one of the Cadbury's bars, a Double Decker bar ('cause I'd never tried one), and a bottle of Laoshan, Tsingtao's upscale brand.

Then we rode the tramway home, dumped everything in our room (and I drank my Gambler's Gold), and went back out and around the corner to a gaming arcade we'd spotted on the second floor of a high-rise. We played at racing games and basketball tosses and a couple of rail shooters, burning through HK$35 in an hour. Then we came home, showered, and collapsed into bed. A fantastic thunderstorm hit just as we turned out the lights, and we laid there, tangled up with each other, watching the flashes and counting the seconds, until we drifted off to sleep.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hong Kong, day two

Did I say that we had a fantastic view from Room 2504 of the ibis North Point Hotel? I was whistling Dixie. As we peered outside on the wet morning of Monday, August 4, we saw two rusty brown hawks circling each other as they rode a thermal updraft up the side of the hotel building; barges, junks, yachts, cruise ships, and ferries scudding across the iron waters of Victoria Harbor; rain pounding down in Kowloon; the hoary cloud-swept peak of Tai Mo Shan; and jets descending toward Lantau Island. What a view to wake up to. 

We were lazy most of the day, waiting for the spectacular thunder showers to pass and the heat to subside. In the early evening, we took the tram (the streetcar, not the subway) west to Hong Kong Station.

Then we rode the Star Ferry from Pier 7 across Victoria Harbor to Tsim Sha Tsui.


There was one thing I knew I HAD to do in HK: the Avenue of the Stars, specifically the Bruce Lee statue. I admired the man's physical prowess and wanted to pay my respects to satisfy my rampant, querulous, needy, domineering inner geek. I also got to mack on some grilled cuttlefish. 

Heather returned to the hotel and I rode one stop north to Jordan to meet Jeff, my old Canuck friend from Geoje, whom I'd last seen in Ho Chi Minh City. He and his fiancĂ©e Jenn had taken the Reunification Express in the opposite direction I had—up to Hoi An and the beaches there. He was in Hong Kong on a long layover to Seoul to pick up the wedding ring, and she'd already gone back to England. We thought we'd meet up in Kowloon for dinner and a drink. I nabbed some postcards at the Temple Street Night Market and we located a restaurant. It was down a shifty-looking side-street, swathed in plastic awnings but with plentiful light, electric fans, and TVs showing period dramas. The menu was in English and 640-ml bottles of Tsingtao were only HK$15 apiece. We feasted on fried rice, a satay beef bowl, and fried pork ribs—suspiciously similar in taste and appearance to any Californian Chinese buffet, and therefore likely loaded with MSG. 

For drinks we rode the subway back under the harbor to Hong Kong/Central. We popped out of Exit C, turned left up a hill, went right, traversed a staircase, followed a sinuous skyway for a few hundred yards, and found ourselves in SoHo, a favorite haunt of Jeff's and a great many other hungry, thirsty expats. the place was full to bursting with trendy, overpriced foreign restaurants catering to affluent residents of the Mid-Levels and accessed by a unique system of tiered, slow-moving escalators. One has merely to stand and browse as one is lifted up the steep hill, and disembark at one's leisure. 

Having already stuffed ourselves in Kowloon, Jeff and I were only interested in beverages. We had a nightcap at Yorkshire Pudding, a British pub. We sipped Tetley's beer and Magners cider, watched Australian rugby, overheard rugby-loving Americans nearby exchanging ribald badinage, and eyed the exotic fish darting to and fro in the big aquarium tank behind the booth. 

Then we went home. And that was day two.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Hong Kong, day one

By mutual agreement, Miss H and I decided not to do much today. I was exhausted from my losing battle against Singapore's confounded autocracy, and my other half had just come off a startlingly harsh week at work (and a long flight). So we went to bed early the night of Saturday, August 2, and had a lovely lie-in Sunday morning. 

The weather was a factor as well. I hadn't expected Hong Kong to be the hottest, most humid, most stinkingly sweltering destination on my journey, but that it was. We could hardly breathe. The heat and wet were living things, clawing at your throat, clamping your clothes against your body, blocking your pores like some invisible blob monster. I've always been prone to sweating when the temperature's anywhere above 70 degrees, and whenever the humidity's above 40 percent. You can imagine how I felt in Hong Kong, with the temperature hovering around 85 and the humidity at 81%. Even Miss H was melting. 

Nonetheless, we hadn't come all this way just to sit in our air-conditioned room. We practically sprinted the ten feet between the hotel lobby and the entrance to North Point MTR station, and then we were on our way to Central and the IFC Mall. 

The view from the roof deck. We'd been planning to have cocktails up there, but the prices were exorbitant.

Pepero is the Korean version of Pocky, a Japanese biscuit stick covered with chocolate. So weird seeing it labeled in English in Hong Kong...

We did a bit of shopping (Victoria's Secret, Dymocks Bookstore, Godiva) and ate a hefty lunch of salads, sandwiches, and smoothies. Then we went to see The Guardians of the Galaxy in 3D. It cost about $15 per personnot including the glasses!but what the hell, it was a date. In Hong Kong. 

Back at our hotel—ibis North Point—we switched rooms. I'd gotten one of the cheapest double rooms, but 1901 was a closet-sized space with a view of the building behind. So we paid an extra hundred HK$ (about $12.89 US) per day and moved our stuff up to 2504, which had a gorgeous view of Victoria Harbor and Kowloon.