Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hong Kong1

It was good flight San Francisco to Hong Kong. Leslie is the Master of good seats - thanks to (1) her persistence - no surprise that to anyone who knows her! and (2) seatguru.com. On a 747 in economy there are a total of six rows of two seats. All the other rows in economy are 3-4-3 (total about 400 seats). The two seat rows are the bulkhead seats where the fuselage tapers at the back of the plane so between the seats and the bulkhead there is some extra space - we had about 14 extra inches. So there we were with our own little scene, just the two of us with all our airplane stuff - books, blankets, Tabasco.

Photo: from the window of one of our rooms at the Dragon Hostel

I added up the hours starting when we got up at 6am in SF the morning of departure to finally collapsing in bed in HK at 8pm - 46 hours on the go, except I slept ~5 hours on the plane and Leslie slept~3 hours. Leslie felt bad on the flight with the tiredness and aftermath of pneumonia, and she felt worse when we got to HK. We cleared immigration and went to the wrong luggage carousel, then to the right carousel, through security and then - disaster! I'd left my backpack somewhere in the luggage area and no way were they going to let me back in. So we ended up spending an anxious two hours at the airport with Leslie guarding the luggage and me hiking in the
bowels of the office areas from from one end of the airport to the other. We finally left, packless, with Leslie and I both pretty down.

Photo: One of our rooms (the incredibly noisy one). The rooms at the Dragon are less than 7x12 feet - including the bathroom.

We caught the A21 bus into town, walk a few blocks to the Sincere House in Mong Kok, to the 7th floor where the Dragon Hostel is, wait for room, I caught a bus to the Chungking Mansions to change some money, back to Dragon, got a room, Leslie to bed. I caught the A21 back to the airport and on the ride I'm worrying, realizing no way should I have left Leslie alone feeling so bad. At the airport I ran up the stairs to the lost & found office (I've learned my way around the back ways of the place) and there it was - my pack - sitting on the floor!!! Nothing was missing either. Lucky I didn't lose it in Dallas or Bangkok or Phnom Penh. Back to the A21, back to the Dragon, back to Leslie, who was still in bed, feeling "maybe a little better." I'll never leave you like this again.

For dinner we had sandwiches we'd kept from the flight. I couldn't stay awake, so went for a walk around the neighborhood scouting out a cheap place we could eat tomorrow - a place with seats with backs - nothing but the best! I found a place and as I was walking I thought about our last trip and how exhausted and bad Leslie felt then when we got to HK.
That was heartening and I worried less. Finally at 8pm, so many hours after we got out of bed in SF I laid down to sleep in HK.

Photo: On the street

We awakened at 5am and Leslie's first words were, "I'm better." Oh happy day! We laid about talking and in me an undercurrent of joy and gratitude that she's better and we're such good friends. I fixed some coffee and we hung out for another hour or so. I went for a fast walk, doing inclined push-ups at every corner where the light was red and along the way I saw some people eating at little folding tables set up on the sidewalk. That's usually a good sign - and it was this time too. I'd found a good, cheap dim sum place. So for breakfast in our room we had steamed shrimp dumplings, steamed BBQ pork buns, and fried curried chicken rolls.

The trip has gone from exhaustion, sick, anxious to feeling better/feeling good, decent dim sum, rested (but still tired). In short, Oh a happy day, a happy day.

Photo: The place where I get us dim sum for breakfast

We're settled in to the trip. Leslie is still fatigued from the pneumonia, so we're doing something we've talked about in the past: hanging out in a few blocks area, seeing and doing what there is to do right here. And there is plenty - at least there is for the easily amused like we are - digging the amaaazing crowds; enjoying discovering new places to eat like the dim sum for breakfast place, like new noodle soup places, renewing our Taipan Bakery trips, making the phone mall scene (oh wow, if you haven't been HK you've probably never seen anything like this place - 100s of little shops [4'x6' or as big as 8'x10'] crammed full of 4G phones and people packed in everywhere); hanging out in our tiny room, talking, having coffee, just being together, happy in this room. We're in our 3rd room! The first one had some men working very noisily nearby all day, so it was challenging to rest. The second was too close to a main street so it noisy all night until ~4:30am. This last one is quieter all the way around - ahhh.
Photo: The entrance to the Sincere House where the Dragon Hostel is is right past the stinky tofu place on the right of the photo.

This is the first Asia trip where I've had a laptop, which is nice given we're spending a fair amount of time in the room. I really am enjoying the music ... Pearl Jam playing Yellow Ledbetter, Aes Dana doing Summerlands, Vibrasphere doing Forest Fuel, Bob Dylan singing Not Dark Yet (at Jack Kerouac's grave), Brandi Carlile singing Downpour - David gave me this song and the refrain echoing in my mind for days now ...
And when you need someone to carry you through
I'm gonna be there for you
I'm gonna be there for you

Sometimes I can't even begin to believe this life, these times.

Photo: Breakfast in bed (like there's anywhere else to eat in our room. Steamed pork with black beans and chillis, har gow, stuffed fried dumplings

It's New Years Day. I went for the usual walk-run-walk-push-ups-walk. Dim sum again for breakfast - today steamed pork with black bean and chilli, har gow, stuffed dumpling - all for $45 HKD (a little less than$6USD). Leslie and I walked to the Taipan bakery, then she went back to the Dragon to take up ice, pay Stanley, etc. and I caught the #2 bus to Chungking Mansions ("a place like no other place in the world ... huge ramshackle dump of a place ... caters for virtually all needs ... undercurrent of sleaze ... peculiar odors ..." Lonely Planet]) to hang out and change money. Uh-oh, many of the shops closed and fewer people in the hallways.
Maybe it's the end of an era.

Photo: Star Ferry. the Twinkling Star

We rendezvoused at the Star Ferry of course - "I'll meet you at the Star Ferry." We rode the ferry to the Island and back - no destination other than the ride itself. In a beautiful stroke of good fortune, we rode the Twinkling Star both ways. Since 1978 this one has been my favorite (all the ferries are named something Star - Morning Star, Evening Star, Meridian Star, Twinkling Star, etc.). Caught the #6 bus back past our stop so we could go to Wellcome Grocery, where we bought beer and yogurt. Back to our room for awhile, then to the fish ball restaurant for shrimp and vegetable
wonton noodle soup and steamed vegetable. Back to the room for a nap. It's been a very good day. Leslie is stronger every day.

I forgot to say that after the Chungking Mansions I walked to Ka Ka Lok Fast Foods (where in 1978 we used to get nice little ham and egg sandwiches) to get Leslie - what else - a ham and egg sandwich. Good times.

Photo: Al fresco dining at Ka Ka Lok