Friday, November 2, 2012


Arrived at hotel and overpaid the driver just as I’d overpaid for Starbucks at  the airport. Travel Tip #3: avoid buying stuff at airports!
Checked in to a small but clean room - washed up, rubbed my swollen feet and headed downstairs for detailed directions to the nearby night markets.

Streetscene-Hong Kong

Upon hitting the street I was struck by the large ordered crowds, heavy traffic and ocean of neon signs everywhere- just as I’d always pictured Hong Kong.
I was going to keep it simple and just walk the half hour but on a whim took the concierge's advice and ducked in to the first subway station.
The Hong Kong subway was cheap and easy to manoeuvre, even for the chronically confused and directionally- challenged like me. As I stood looking blank and frustrated in front of a token machine, a young hipster approached me. Figuring I was about to get robbed or scammed as I did in the Paris Metro years ago, I steeled myself and fixed him the stink eye. “Do you need help?” he asked. He actually helped me get my token and brought me onto the right platform!

Although my time in Hong Kong was limited, I was struck my how friendly and polite the Hong Kong people are. I was approached when struggling with a map several times, and native restaurant patrons never failed to ask me if I needed help ordering off the completely Chinese menu. I even had one guy waving flies off me, proving chivalry is not dead, at least not in Hong Kong tram line ups.
The widespread use of English was also striking and welcomed. I’d learned a few Chinese phrases before arrival but needed none of them.

Hong Kong is very orderly and clean too. Obviously it has smog and it’s crowded, but littering, and public spitting (a scourge across mainland China) is deterred with heavy fines. Eating or drinking on public transportation is also strictly prohibited which cuts down the litter too.

In London it was "Mind the Gap"- here it's keep your hands on the handrail

Emerging from the Mong Kok station I ambled into the Ladies Market- eager to find trinkets and clothes. I kept getting distracted by people watching and the general ambiance of the city, though, and failed at my quest for the Golden Dragon (pendant requested by my friend Robin).
I walked through literally thousands of men and women in the course of the evening and counted 6 white people, no blacks, no middle-easterners. I was definitely NOT in Kansas anymore!
I noted that the generally garb was casual and rather drab for my taste- no flash and mostly dark colours and designs. Exception was shoes, especially on the guys--crazy coloured sneakers everywhere. No jewellery of note except everyone has some huge super-mod flashy watch.  I’ve been wearing a watch for the first time in a year and can hardly bear it.

Rainbow Brite or what?

I figured everyone would be chowing down on street food everywhere- skewered scorpions and the like, but no dice. Orderly restaurants were instead where everyone gathered- very little eating on the streets. Seeing some one even drinking a bottle of water on the streets was rare.

After my retail therapy failure I decided to walk back to the hotel and confidently strode 30 minutes in the complete opposite direction down the main drag of Nathan Road. Although signage for major attractions is excellent in Hong Kong, my insignificant hotel is not among them.
By the time of this revelation, I was so jetlagged and tired my head was buzzing . I sat down in a “rest garden” (why don’t we have these in Canada?), pulled my addled brain together and gathered strength for another long, late night trudge back to my hotel.

Even with all of my detailed trip planning, I overlooked that Hong Kong has its own currency. I exchanged enough Yuan to get see me through the giant HK tour I had planned for the next day, showered, washed and hung my road clothes, assembled my daypack, set my watch for 530 AM, and fell into a much- needed sleep.

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