After taking leave of Malaysia we hauled ass to the airport to catch our plane to Hong Kong. When we got there we were not completely surprised to learn that our luggage had mated like rabbits and the slim, super model-esque 40 kilos that we started with did a Maradonna like balloon to a staggering 80 kilo. Obviously this didn't go down well with the check in girl in the airport who was obviously thinking she could get a medium sized Malaysian family onto the plane for under that weight. So we were hit with a substantial excess baggage fee which was to haunt us for the next while like the fat kid in the corner of the playground no one wants to play with. Anyway the doctor said that this subject is bad for Fiona's "rage" so we will swiftly move on.
We arrived in Hong Kong and made our way to our hotel
. Now apart from Japan we had booked the first night only in each place we went to. In hong Kong we wish we hadn't bothered. When we got to our hotel in Kowloon from the airport, sampling for the first time the best public transport possibly in the world (well the parts I've been anyway), it looked suitably impressive. The room less so. The hours we spent trekking around the dregs of Hong Kong society looking for a place to stay before biting the bullet and getting some where nice on the net was probably the only crap night we had on our travels to this point. While searching for a place to stay (on the cheap cos as Mick Hucknal might have crooned "money's too tight to mention") we saw the very essence of what Hong Kong was all about. It had some of the greatest architecture I have ever seen, it had Guess, Prada all that over priced fashion stuff you find in all the major cities. However in Kowloon, which is just off the main island, some of the things we saw almost defy description. It's got the seedy underbelly that Bangkok has but more subtle. Two things stick in the mind. Firstly while waking around we both saw this guy sitting in the gutter picking at a scab on his arm that looked to me like a tattoo one wrong. When I say scab I really mean festring wound. He had a couple of holes as big as his finger in his arm that were yellow. I'm not exaggerating when I say they were as big as his finger cos he stuck one of his not exactly pristine digits in there up to the first knuckle. Undoubtedly the vilest thing I have seen since the last time Briano deemed it necessary to flash his lad in public. Yes, I shit you not, it was that bad.
The other episode was more funny ha, ha as opposed to I'm gonna spew funny. While looking for somewhere to stay we came across a hotel where we hoped we may rest our travel weary bones. Alas, once we inquired we were informed that they rooms were only rented for 1 hour at a time
. Now I wouldn't possibly know what someone could get up to in bed at one hour increments but I wasn't letting some crazy Chinese "I only cater for people who take powernaps" jive put me off. No Sir! Undeterred we said we wanted to stay for the whole night. To be honest I didn't like they way she looked me up and down and fell into hysterics laughing but basically we were told that even if we stayed all night we would have to leave each morning and as we were looking for 5 days we admitted defeat and returned to the sanctity of our hotel where it was safe from the loonies who populated the cities. I don't mind telling you I was feeling a little tall and was relieved to return to people of my own stature.
We found a nice place the next morning in a place called the New Territories. This is a kind of buffer zone between the Capitalistic(ish) Hong Kong and the Communist mainland of China. It's not as flash as the main island or as garish as Kowloon and it's a nice place. If you wanted to go to Hong Kong and couldn't afford to stay on the main island - stay here. We went sightseeing and really couldn't believe the quality of the transport. That's why we had no problems staying away from the main island cos you could get there by train in 15 mins and the trains and buses came on time and about every 5 minutes. Not like at home where catching a bus was like a mensa exam "A 65b bus leaves Dame Street at 2pm travelling south at 40 miles an hour. If it gets stoned once near Christchurch and the driver gets assaulted in Dolphins Barn, also taking into account the 3 "boyz" smoking Heroin upstairs down the back what time will it get to the bus stop down the road from Brady's so you can get back to The Square before the Pikeys from the local halting site turn the bridge into a no go area. You have 5 minutes". If your IQ was less than 210 you missed the bus
. Here they tell you when the bus is gonna reach your stop and 9 time out of 10 it's right!! Anyhoo I digress.
Fiona was a bit worried that we wouldn't be able to make our way around and that there would be no English spoken anywhere. I tried to encourage her that cos the island was a part of England up until recently and had a governor and so on, there would be English every where. Of course I was wrong. There was hardly any English anywhere. But we struggled on manfully (and womanfully?!). However we were mostly undone by the food, and I use the term loosely here. We were still on the malaria tablets which were doing wonderful things for the psyche. However we were warned not to take them on an empty stomach. Of course this happened in Hong Kong. The tablets affect you badly enough but when we saw what passed as a meal in china, that sealed the deal. On offer was duck mandible (lower jaw for the anatomically ignorant), pig bowel (yes that's right, stomach, kind of ironic if you think about it), preserved eggs which are boiled in tea and look prehistoric - the yolks are black and the "white" is a transparent amber colour. Coupled with pigeon, chicken and duck which is cooked, displayed and served flattened out with the head (eyes included), feet and wings attached meant that I have never been happier to see the golden arches in my whole life. After viewing these delectable culinary delights and taking a malaria tablet on an empty stomach Fi was a mite queasy
. I thought she was joking, or whinging, but as soon as we got off the train and she had a little "accident" i.e Vomit Volcano!! I realised she was telling the truth. Note- the train had not yet pulled away!! This was in the middle of the SARS epidemic and everywhere I looked all I could see was health signs and notices saying if you are sick you need to contact the medical officer/security immediately. After Fi's 'episode' we were instantly surrounded by a 5 foot tall sea of surgical mask wearing mofo's so I decided it would be best if we beat a hasty retreat before Fi was put in quarantine. Of course Fi wasn't too impressed with this course of action but after I had explained the situation, in between exclamations of "why are you being so mean" (the reserved travel pod version!!), she soon followed suit. So we were able to find our way to a toilet through all of the disapproving looks from the locals and then get out of there without being deported for being diseased. I was able to see the funny side of it soon after. As far as I am aware Fi is still looking for it.(Fi here- saw the funny side that night- just had forgotten mid spew about the whole SARS, everyone wearing germ masks thing!!!)
So apart from crazy pills and vomit inducing food Hong Kong has a lot to offer. The first day on the main island we went sight seeing. It really is an amazing place. Some of the buildings were spectacular
. We wandered around and found ourselves in the city zoo which is a small zoo in one of the local parks. There were small ponds full of turtles and plenty to see. The next day we went to Victoria peak. This is basically an attraction up the side of a mountain. You get a tram ride up it at a quite step angle and there are some great views. Once at the top there is a Ripley's Odditorium, Madame Tausaudds and a large 3d simulator ride. Great fun was had by all. In the wax works we rubbed Ghandi's head, said "we're gonna get them folks" "I am not a crook" a lot from the presidential pulpit, discussed the latest home and away plots with Shakespeare, flipped Hitler the bird, all that tourist stuff. We also got some photos taken with famous lumps of wax so that it looks like we have pictures of loads of really famous people, if you squint a little and suspend disbelief and accept the fact the John Lennon came back from the dead, rejoined the Beatles and regressed in age just so he could pose for a picture with us!. Maybe not. We saw some pictures of how the models are made and some pictures of the people posing for their models so it was quite good.
The Odditorium lived up to its name. Some crazy shit to be found in there. I could go on for a long time about the place if I had the time/could remember/was arsed. Let's just say that in the one building we touched the Berlin wall, saw a piece of the moon and stood on a piece of Mars and they were the more normal exhibits
! I'll let the pictures speak for them selves on this one. The last port of call on this voyage of fun was the huge 3D fun ride. Basically you sit in a chair and bounce around in front of a screen showing a giant roller coaster/space voyage/car chase. Not as crap as it sounds and actually a bit of a giggle, or a lot of a giggle if you are Fi. She's a giggler! After this it was some sightseeing from the viewing balcony and there were some sights to be seen. There is a building made of glass which shimmers in the twilight and looks like a huge ghost building. There is another which has rows and rows of blue neon so it looks like a huge lighter. Then of course there was the massive harbour and all of the junks and more modern ships. The next couple of days were tame affairs. We stayed for a night on the main island and went out for a romantic dinner, as you do. Of course that was easier said than done. We tried 4 different restaurants and could not find anywhere worth eating. In one place we got a beer and they brought out some tea which we neither asked for or wanted and then tried to charge us for it. Our romantic dinner consisted of me with a pork meal of some description and Fi with a bowl of rice which she accompanied with some mustard that they had sitting on the table. Bit of a nightmare!! We went sightseeing the next day in the New Territories and found some nice temples and a really nice Bonsai gardens which was a little out of place but very cool none the less. It was a nice relaxing way to end the trip in a place I couldn't recommend highly enough.
Hong Kong beer - The most obvious is Tsing Tao which is pronounced as fast as fucking possible. Very nice beer and again not unknown to the Chinese restaurant visiting of our tribe. Not much else. Tiger beer and the usual American/European imports abound.