Hong Kong Day Four; Last Day

I get up at sunrise because I can’t bear to close my hotel room curtains.    

I put on some pants on and went to the hotel breakfast buffet.  This is my first plate; the second plate had fruit, cheese, and salmon.  Tomorrow I’m just going to fill my plate with salmon, it’s my last day!   

I had lunch plans with a friend of mine, so I didn’t want to stray too far on my morning explore, so I found the Mid-Levels Travelator, the 中環至半山自動扶梯.  So apparently the city… built something to help the people… get around town… with something OTHER THAN A CAR.  Amazing.  It’s a series of escalators up a residential hill, but iin the narrow streets up there are tons of bars, restaurants, and cafes.  It’s really pretty cool.  

From 6am to 10am they run the escalators downhill, so people living up the hill can get to work in Central.  Around 10:30 they complete the big direction switch, so yokels like me can go up and get lost.  The photos below are right before the switch.  

   

You get a pretty good view of the streets below.  Just like in the movies, the narrow streets are crowded with colorful signs.  Notice, though, that the streets are immaculate and there are no aerial cables or wires for telephone, electricity, cable tv, or whatever.    

 
    

I started my journey up the hill around 10am and at 11am I panicked a little becuase I didn’t want to be late to meet my friend back at Central.  It was a hot day but it was fun taking the escalators up.  On the way down I realized that the hill is STEEP and I was worried about my ankles… which held up just fine, by the way.  

By the time I got back down to Queen’s Road I had sweat through my shirt, so I popped into a luxury shopping mall and parked at a Starbucks.  My friend CS met me soon after.  

We went to Crystal Jade in the IFC Mall, and the 小籠包 soup dumplings were so, so good.  Way better than DTF, for all of you that know that I hate that place.  CS had me read the English version of the crazy menu copy.  On one hand, why didn’t they get an English speaker to fix it?  On the other hand, it’s awesome just as it is, because crazy.  
  

We had coffee and talked about travel, Asia, Italian moms, and books.  As he was about to go back to work, I said, “You know I’m going to take a selfie…” 

“What,” he asked, “is this like 2014 or something?” 

“Come on,” I said, “I’m on vacation!”  

CS recommended I take a star ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui and walk up Nathan Road, exploring.  Which is what I did!  But I also took a one hour tourist ferry through the harbor, which was a little weak, but there was a/c and I got to sit, so I count it as a win.  

  
 

I got off the boat at Tsim Sha Tsui and walked around and found some Macanese tea houses, and got me a couple of 葡撻, which were great!  

   

 

I gave myself the mission of buying a bandana or hankerchief, since I was annoyed I hadn’t had one on Lamma Island when sweat was rolling into my eyes.  I failed to find any, but I did see these guys putting up bamboo scaffolding. 

 

 After that I went back to the hotel to chill out for an hour or so.  My laundry came back, and the price tag is so high I could have just thrown the dirty clothes away and bought all new clothes for the price.  Oh well, at least they’re already folded and ready to pack.  

By the way, the cleaning lady misidentified me earlier today as Taiwanese, and said I was very 斯文。 Funny, because I felt pretty shabby in my rayon aloha shirt and cargo shorts, but I’ll take the compliment!  

Afterwards, I met Hizonor S in Mong Kok and we had a meal in the food court of the mall there.  The a/c was delicious and so was the garlic rice in this photo below.  The pork neck was a little dry.   

 

S ordered a durian and black rice dessert, and I took a picture of it, and he took a picture of me taking a picture of it.  Yes, it smelled like durian!  My dessert was mango and watermelon slices, and I got a picture of him taking a picture of it.  

   

And then there was a selfie.  Of course, I’m on vacation!  Tomorrow:  Singapore.   
 

Hong Kong Day 3: Lamma Island

I slept in until crazy late today:  8:30.  I got dressed up in my pants, because I like to wear pants to the breakfast buffet, which is overstaffed with 25 year old kids who are overdresed and trying to impress their bosses with their attentiveness.  I feel like I’m representing the Philippines, so I wear pants. The cats from northern England all wear either cargo shorts or cut off jean shorts.  CUT OFF JEAN SHORTS.  

These are the things I like at the breakfast buffet:  the lox, the mini benedicts, the croissants, the cheeses, not the bacon, the eggs, or the asian hotel sausages.  Not the rice; not the fried rice, not the saffron rice.  I do like the fruit:  cubed melon, pineapple, watermelon, and dragon fruit.  The coffee is rancid.  

When I get back up to my room and change into my cargo shorts and lose the undershirt, and prepare to face the  non airconditioned world.  Today’s mission was to Lamma Island, which is a direct train with 5 stops to Central Station, a little walky-walk that’s a little more than a kilometer, and a ferry ride that’s listed as an hour but seems shorter.  

I just want to mention that Central Station on a Sunday is JAMMED with Filipinas, hanging out in the stairwells and all the pathways like birds that flock at the end of the day.  There are also several Jehova’s Witness missionaries who are obviously only after the Pinays, since their literature is all in English and presuming a Christian world view.  I assume that they are maids and cleaning ladies and maybe nurses.  They are different from the vacation Filipinos, who carry shopping bags and dress preppier.  

Anyway, I walked through them all, down to the pier, and I was a little confused about how to pay for the ferry ticket.  In the end I watched some girls from Northern England pay with their subway pass, the Octopus Card.  So I followed them, and got onto a boat.     

The ferry is fast and it crosses a shipping lane.  And at one point it looked like we were going to ram this container ship.  In the end, though, we scooted behind it without changing course.  

  

Lamma Island is 南丫島.  My ferry took me to 榕樹灣 Yung Shue Wan first, and it was still too early for lunch so the restaurants were empty.  The entire island is carless, and walking through carless towns and villages reminded me a lot of the towns on the Amalfi Coast, or maybe Cinque Terre.  I wondered if all small Chinese coastal towns were like that, before the advent of the automobile.  I thought somebody should really open a Cantonese Language school there.  

There is a “walk” from 榕樹灣 Yung Shue Wan to 索罟灣 Sok Kwu Wan which is called the Lamma Island Family Trail. Signs say it’s a 50 minute walk, but the internet says it’s two hours.  It’s a paved trail between the two towns, so it’s a “hike” in the Chinese sense, if not the American sense.  It’s not a hard walk but there are a few hills to deal with.  I was glad I was alone, so I could go at my own speed.  

    

I thought that this as an interesting sign to have on a carless island.  

  
 

I stopped at 洪聖爺灣泳灘  Hung Sheng Yeh Beach and thought, wow this is the Indian Ocean, I better put my toes in!  Later I looked at a map and realized I was off by a million miles; it was only the South China West Philippine Sea.    
  

The trail takes you up some hills to some lookouts and there is a stand at the peak that sells frozen pineapple.  Later the trail winds down into the valley where there is a pretty significant creeping vine problem; it’s becoming a creeping vine monoculture.  As I got into 索罟灣 Sok Kwu Wan you could see the fish farms in the bay, and hear the tourguides doing their comedy on the Chinese tour groups.  I could also hear tourist kids shouting at each other down in the stream delta.  

When I got down to 索罟灣 Sok Kwu Wan I walked through the restaurant row and picked a place.  I didn’t really know what to order, and the seafood platters looked too big for one person.  So I just ordered a plate of Singapore Fried Noodles.  The waiter got mad at me for not ordering seafood–the conversation is all in Mandarin, by the way–and I asked him to show me what one person could order.  He said to get a couple of scallops so I chose scallops in garlic, because scallops baked in cheese gross me out.  

I asked the waiter what the bowl was for, and he impatiently told me that in Hong Kong, people rinse out their bowls, cups, and utensils in the hot tea, so they can be sure that it’s clean.  Then I asked where the tea cup was, and he impatiently told me, it’s that!  and pointed to the juice glass.  

Later they brought the Singapore fried noodles, and they were good but whatever, better in Seattle.  Then he brought the scallops and they looked SPECTACULAR and I thought I should have ordered ten of them and a bowl of rice.  Old grumpy waiter put them on the table and said, these are so delicious.  The younger waiter chuckled as he saw me snap a photo.  

Later still, grumpy old waiter saw me try to chopstick the scallops and started yelling at me again, and I didn’t know what the hell he wanted.  He kept saying “cha” so I kept looking at my tea.  Then he pointed at my fork, and I realized he was saying “chā” and he wanted me to slide the damn fork under the scallop, which made way more sense than sliding the tea under it.  

The scallops were spectacular and actually quite hot; there was some hot oil poured onto them and the bean threads preserved the heat.  The garlic was fragrant and intoxicating.  I told the waiter, 「先生,沒有你我怎麼辦?」(“Sir, what would I do without you?”).  After that, he wasn’t grumpy anymore; he smiled and patted me on the back and told me no problem.  

Later young waiter asked me if I was Singaporean, which is a pretty good guess, I think.  I said no, and he started walking to the next table so I shouted behind him 我是菲律賓人! (“I’m Filipino!”)  because I think everyone should know.  Then I realized I was sitting at table 206.  

   

After a can of beer I settled the bill and didn’t tip, because you’re not supposed to.  I ate my complimentary wedge of frozen pineapple on a stick, and then got onto the empty, waiting ferrry to come back to Hong Kong Island.  

When I walked into the grand lobby, I stopped at the concierge desk and asked them to send up some ice for my soda.  Here’s what they sent me.    

 

After a short rest and a tedious amount of uploading, I went to dinner.  I thought about the hotel buffet, but it was $70 USD per person because it’s Sunday or something.  So then I googled and the only thing I found in this neighborhood was a hamburger restaurant called “The Big Bite.”  I was going to find it, but then I thought I should go back to Causeway Bay and poke around.  So I trained over to Causeway Bay and found myself in a freaking shopping mall.  

I am so sick of shopping malls.  

Anyway, I found my way back up top and found a bowl of noodles.  There were some Mainland kids that asked to share my table, and they used a cool word for “share a table” but I forgot what it was.  

On the way back, I thought I’d walk around 炮台山 Fortress Hill Station, which is this neighborhood that the hotel is in.  Google doesn’t say anything about this neighborhood, and my friends have nothing to say about this neighborhood either, so I was pretty surprised at all the cafes and restaurants I saw folks eating dinner at.  It’s actually a pretty quiet residential neighborhood, and the restaurants are local hangouts rather than destinations.

Tomorrow  I will eat more seafood and hopefully meet another friend of mine.  Also, I’ll get the hotel to do my laundry.  That should be something!    

Hong Kong Day 2:  The Junk Boat

I woke up this morning as the sun was rising over Ma On Shan.  I put on long pants and went to the breakfast buffet, which was pretty nice…  My next mission was to get cash and buy some booze for the booze cruise.  

I managed to get cash in the neighborhood, but the booze at 7-11 all looked off brand, and I didn’t wat to show up to the booze cruise with something that would embarrass my friend, so I asked the concierge, who directed me to a neighborhood grocery.  The selection wasn’t great there either but I ended up getting a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label because it was the right size for the day, the size of a small jar of olive oil.  

Some of the Chinese booze on the shelf kind of looked like oyster sauce.  

I subwayed and hoofed it down to the pier, where I met my friend J.  It was kind of a zoo because apparently a lot of people had scheduled junk boat parties, and they were all meeting at the same pier.  When I got onto the boat, I put my bottle on the table and someone said, “Who brought the sesame oil?”  

Anyway, we sailed around the east end of Hong Kong Island and dropped anchor in a quiet bay.  People jumped in the water.  I stayed aboard and spotted a jelly fish, a big one.  We ate burrittos and drank some booze and it was a fun way to spend seven hours.  

After we got back on land I met A in Mongkok, and I got some seafood spaghetti.  I bought some souvenirs at the Ladies Market and then went back ot the hotel, soaked in the tub for a little, and then showered off.  There are two showers in my sexy bathroom with a view of Kowloon; one is a shower attachment with a hose and a couple of hooks on the wall and it’s pretty fancy.  The other is a showerhead way up on the 20 foot ceiling that drenches you like a  torrential downpour.  The thing about that one is that you have to turn the water a little hotter than usual, because it tends to cool off as it falls from such great a distance.  

I’m not sure what I’m doing tomorrow.  Maybe I’ll explore Kowloon some more.  Maybe I’ll stay here on the island.  Bus out to Stanley?  Skylift to see the Buddha?  Who knows.