Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hong Kong on the way out of Asia - Asia!

Tuesday. The taxi ride from the Bangkok hotel to the airport was memorable for a circuitous route, some white-knuckle speeds, good time, and a pleasant negotiation with the taxi driver at the end. We had an easy flight from Bangkok on a plane less than half full – mostly Indians, many of the men with long beards and turbans. After a last minute on-line check, Leslie found that our plane had many open seats and so changed our seats to

the two end seats of a four-seat row. Nice! Glad to be on Cathay Pacific. Photo: Coffee at Pacific Coffee on the Peak overlooking the harbor

At the HK airport we had an interaction through which I realized, “It’s not me, it’s you” (the person at fault, as usual, in general). What a breakthrough! All these years, thinking, “It’s not you, it’s me” – but then to find out, no, “It’s you!” Leslie had a slightly different take on things.

Back in Hong Kong, the beginning and end of all our Asia trips, we go quickly through the best-managed airport ever, down the ramp to the A21 bus, hop on, pay our senior fare of $16.5HKD (~$2.10USD) each vs. at least $230HKD (~$30USD) for a taxi, and in less than an hour we’re at our place at the Dragon Hostel in the Sincere House on Tung Choi Street at Argyle Road. It’s the Dragon Hostel, but it’s really a guesthouse. Our room is larger than before (sleeping area 7.5’x7.6’ + some hall space and bathroom 2.4’x5.75’). The exchange rate is 7.78HKD to 1USD (all prices in this blog are in HKD). With temps in the 50s and 60s, it’s as cold as we’ve ever seen here.

In an effort to avoid the Chungking Mansions (where we always change our money) we discover that the bank wants to charge about $15USD to change $200. Not likely, so on the bus we go, down Nathan Road, and through the portals of one of my favorite and one of Leslie's least

favorite places, Chungking Mansions. Leslie did the deal and when I suggested she give the money to me after the pay-out (we’re in a wide corridor of a notorious place) she growled at me and wanted to talk about it. I was looking at the money-changing guy and I kind of shook my head and shrugged and he actually smiled – an unheard of action on the part of a CKM money-changer. Photo above: A back section of the harbor from airport bridge

By now we’re pretty tired. Bus back up Nathan Road to pay for the room, then to dinner at Good Hope Noodles, where Leslie decided she didn’t want to eat because of the general grubbiness – always a good move to follow ones’ instincts (oh, and there was a hair in her food). Incredibly, the waitress deleted the cost of her noodles. I finished mine and Leslie had the last of the tripnic for dinner: bacon sandwich, fried bananas, and frozen yogurt.

Our room at the Dragon is one of the larger ones and has windows. Windows are the good news and the bad news as this is not a quiet part of a not quiet city. The step up into the bathroom (the usual tiny space) is, according to Leslie, “Luang Prabang high.” So here we are with a few days in Hong Kong and then back to the states. A good place to be. Photo: Dragon Hostel commons - Stanley at his desk

Wednesday. We had a good night’s sleep, due in large part to turning on the aircon fan. Breakfast at the cafĂ© run by “Jenny” at the Fa Yuen Market. Leslie had soup with noodle, vegetable, egg, and pork and I had the usual egg, bacon, and toast. After breakfast we went to get apples from the nice-looking woman at one of the fruit and vegetable stands. There were too many men pushing carts through the narrow aisles, so the woman said come back later. I wanted to walk down a little aisle nearby where there were some foreign places (Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian), so we went there. There were a number of Indonesian people eating and several were super-friendly, telling us about the food and wanting us to eat there, but we said later. Back at the vegetable stand we bought 4 apples for $10 and the woman gave us 2 very tasty mandarin oranges. Of such things are good times made. Photo below: Random street scene in Central

After relaxing in our room for awhile we thought

we might mount yet another expedition to what we call the “middle class people’s shopping center” or the Sham Shi Po area where the amazing Golden Computer Arcade packs ‘em in. For once, choosing something easier, we walked around our neighborhood and the Ladies Market for about an hour and a half. We saw the BBQ place where I had such a good meal when I’d gotten totally lost in 2005 (this time outside the BBQ place the police were tending to an old woman who had fallen or something) and later we stopped in the Taipan Bakery for a coconut tart and a scone.

We walked back to the Fa Yuen Market to try

the Indonesian food. With help from a woman selling sim cards I got tasty nasi campur (that’s phonetic) – rice with a piece of chicken, some kind of fried grain patty, and a packet of coconut-based gravy with black-eyed peas, tofu (or chicken) skin, and some kind of vegetable to pour over the rice, all wrapped up in brown waxed paper stapled together and unfolded and eaten with ketjap manis and several sambals at an amazingly small counter with some friendly Indonesian women. What a time! Photo above: Our happy little room at the Dragon Photo below: Indonesian cafe. Food is in the paper packets on the counter

Leslie took a nap while I wrote and read (The Winter King, a book about King Arthur).

After she awoke I went on a BBQ pork quest while she went to the buzzing busy Dragon office/common room with a constant in and out of Chinese tourists, Europeans, and assorted people. The quest was for Wing Hub Roasties, which I had tried and failed to find our first time through HK in November. The reason to go to Wing Hub is that they are one of the few places in HK or the world, as far as that goes, that they do Chinese BBQ in the old way, with wood fires. This time, with a better map I was there in about a 15 minute walk. I was a little early to bring food back, so I wandered, including wandering back across Nathan Road and to the flower market, including the ultimate orchid seller, then got turned around – Oh Lost! But the better map served me well and I was soon in the take-away line at Wing Hub, where they had sometimes 2 and sometimes 3 men chopping and slicing non-stop. It was quite a performance and then it was my turn and of course none of the chopping guys spoke a word of English and my pronunciation of char sui was off, but someone came to my rescue and they chopped it up and got me out of there for $30 for a big serving of pork on rice. I went a few doors away where I’d seen someone buying bun and tried to get 3, but the woman would only sell me 2 orders of 3 for

$15 ($2USD). Okay, so I got 3 pork and 3 chicken, which was fine, because I’ve never had chicken. Another good guesthouse picnic.

And that’s a day or so in the exciting life of the easily amused Leslie and Charles in Hong Kong. Photo: Star Ferry. Photo below: On the ferry

Thursday. I slept poorly last night. I had an apple and a granola bar for breakfast and went with Leslie to the Fa Yuen Market for another bowl of soup from Jenny’s. We took our laundry to what turns out to be a Thai operated place, did this and that in our room for awhile, and started out for the Peak: Bus #6A to the Star

Ferry, ferry across the harbor (free for seniors), bus #15 up the winding narrow road (I sat in one of the front seats on the top deck and had a nice time talking with a German couple headed for 10 weeks in New Zealand), and then there we were, again, on Victoria Peak looking out over Hong Kong and the Hong Kong harbor. Of course we went to Pacific Coffee and straight away got a table next to the big window so we were hanging over the steep side of the Peak with the Peak Tram coming up the track almost directly beneath us. A good time, reading the South China Morning Post over an espresso on one of the clearest and certainly the coldest day we’ve ever had in HK.

Bus back down, got off at exactly the right place to walk about 15 minutes to Tsim Chai Kee Noodle where we had what we always have – the world’s greatest shrimp wonton noodle soup, steamed vegetable with oyster sauce, and (for me) Coke. Photo: THE MENU

Total $52HKD or $6.60USD for two people – not bad! We’re going back tomorrow. Walk toward the ferry along elevated walkways, through the IFC Shopping Center, past the big construction site with fewer sidewalk superintendents than usual, because of the weather I guess, and back on the ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui, bus up Nathan Road, pick up the laundry, to the room, and collapse.

For dinner I started walking back to Wing Hub Roasties for duck, but (1) I was pretty tired and (2) I’ve had a lot of rich food in recent weeks, so instead went to the Taipan Bakery and got an egg tart and a coconut tart, which along with an apple and some milk made a decent meal. Leslie had leftover wonton noodle soup, frozen yogurt (kept from the breakfast buffet from the Bangkok hotel), and an apple from the Fa Yuen Market.

And that’s another day in the exciting life of the easily amused Leslie and Charles in Hong Kong. Their motto is, Where’s the Party At!

Friday: Breakfast at Fa Yuen Market again. We eat at one of the first places on the 3rd floor. The next section is where the bird fanciers meet (men with one or more bamboo bird cages with song birds in them and they hang the cages from whatever while they have tea and talk with their other bird fancier buddies) and the last section has dim sum and whatnot, along with old people, including one man with a poodle that sits quietly while the man hangs out with his friend having dim sum and tea. Photo below: These jewelry/gold stores are on every 2nd or 3rd block along Nathan Road

After breakfast Leslie went back

to the room and I took the bus down Nathan Road first to the Chungking Mansions to buy a couple of little bags and then to a Pacific Coffee to meet Phil, an internet friend, along with his perpetual motion machine son, two year old Henry. Had a really nice time, a nice man, neat kid.

Back to the Dragon and Leslie and I took off for Tsim Chai Kee for more shrimp wonton noodle soup and so on – of course. Last Star Ferry rides to the Island and back, walking around the neighborhood. Making a Ladies Market run and Leslie doing very well with some gifts. She went back to the room and I went to the roasted duck place for some great duck on rice. Leisurely packing. Good night moon. Good night Hong Kong. We had championship neighbors this leg (it can get a little loud at Stanley’s with comings and goings and groups of young Chinese travelers talking in the halls, but not this time around). Photo: Fa Yuen Market

Good night’s sleep, fixed coffee, Fa Yuen for breakfast, said goodbye to Stanley, walked a few blocks to the A21 bus stop and away we went to the airport for $16.50 each (just over $2USD/person). Had a kind of weird encounter with an older American woman who had a couple of bags stacked in the seat beside her. I asked her to move them and she said (combatively), “Where would I put them?” I said,

“In the luggage bins” and reached to give her a hand with them and she says, “You can’t take my suitcase!” “I’m not taking your suitcase – whatever” and went to another less desirable seat. What a jerk. The people she was with, her son and I guess her daughter, were apologizing and I’m saying, nevermind. Across the bridge, over the harbor, and we’re here, Hong Kong International Airport – light years beyond DFW not quite international airport. Sigh.

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