Monday, October 6th, 2008...11:09 pm

Hong Kong Part 1

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I’m just settling back into Shanghai after an eventful three days in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is separated by a large harbor, dividing the city into Hong Kong Island and Kowloon District. I stayed on less touristy Kowloon side.  My hotel was in an interesting neighborhood surrounded by private schools. Each afternoon the streets surrounding would become plaid with various batches of identically dressed children flooding onto the streets out of school.  I explored the neighborhood a bit when I first arrived, walking around Hong Kong’s twisted winding and slopes streets.  For those of you familiar with San Francisco, imagine the hill-factored roughly doubled and you’ll have Hong Kong’s steepness.  The interesting difference between the two is that no major roads have a steep incline.  Instead they are built as complex series of slowly rising switch backs with the building nestled into the cliff sides between.  The planning has created fascinated array of concrete retaining walls, steep stair case walk ways, and buildings with multiple ground floors.

When I returned to the hotel I had the front desk person write down the address to a recommended restaurant district and directions how to get back. I jumped in a cab and sped off to the city.

Where I went for dinner managed to defy the reputation of Kowloon as being a local hang out.  The place was littered with internationally themed bars, restaurants and clubs. I ate my first pizza/beer dinner since being in Asia, and paid about twice that I would have in Seattle… I was definitely spoiled by Shanghai.

At dinner I met a fellow solo traveler. Originally from Italy, he was en route from Australia to begin studies at a school in Beijing. He was in town for a few nights so we exchanged info and agreed to meet up the following evening. I parted ways with him and then jumped in a cab to head home.  In Hong Kong the local language is Cantonese, not Mandarin. Although both use the same written characters, the pronunciation is distinct enough that for me communication reverted to pointing at addressed post-it notes.  I showed the driver the note the clerk had written, but he seemed puzzled.  He took my about one block and indicated that this is where I had asked to go.  I tried to explain that there were two addresses on the note, but he communicated that they were the same place.  Apparently when I told the clerk “this hotel” he had interpreted it as “that” hotel and had written down a hotel in the neighborhood as well as the intersection.  I had no link home.

Mildly frustrated I jumped out of the cab and began to walk in the direction my intuition led me.  I walked for a long time, occasionally stopping and asking cab drivers if they could understand the name of my hotel and road, the names for which I only knew in English.   The streets started getting quieter and darker, and fewer and fewer cabs were around.  I was lost.  For the first time in Asia I was actually lost.  “Check this one off the necessary travel experience list…” I thought while trying to keep my spirits up.  Around 3 AM I woke up an old cab driver sleeping in his car and monosyllabically enunciated the street I was staying on.  He got on the radio and asked around, received what seemed to be a confirming response and then asked me to get in the cab.  He took me straight back to the hotel without any problem.  Turns out I had walked straight passed my street, passing within one block of the hotel but had simply missed the street sign.  My intuition was good, I just can’t seem to read.  The driver spoke a bit of Mandarin, on the way home we made simple conversation about the comparisons in size and expense of Shanghai to Hong Kong.  It was a pleasant end to a disconcerting evening.

Friday I slept off my late night until about noon and woke up with a journey to a park in the neighborhood. It was a pleasant meditative garden called Kowloon Walled City Park.  I’ve attached a few photos.  In the evening I met up with my friend from the night before and we played tourist in the Soho district.  Did I mention that Hong Kong is expensive?

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