From iPod to Tripod, the fall of shopping in HK

Trip Start May 30, 2005
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Trip End Sep 30, 2006


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Thursday, July 28, 2005

I was very happy to arrive in Hong Kong after a short bus ride from Guangzhou, this is more like it. The first thing that I noticed after crossing the border was that we were on the proper side of the road again! what's more, after we booked into our hostel it was a joy to see a proper plug socket again.

We almost came a cropper with our hostel. We'd booked it using www.hostelworld.com (yep that's a plug) but we'd neglected to note down the address or directions to the hostel (bad move). When the bus dropped us off in Mongkok we didn't know where to go, secondly there wasn't an internet cafe in sight, we were in a pickle. We asked a guy in the street where we might find access to the internet and he suggested that we'd never find one in the local area. In the end we decided to dump our bags while David went off in search of t'internet, afterall the instructions were in his email account. Nicola and I enjoyed the pleasure of resting in hot HK. It was almost an hour before David returned. He'd not actually found an internet cafe but had persuaded a local entrepreneur to give him 2 mins of internet time for 5 Hong Kong Dollars. Can you believe in the whole of Hong Kong, containing about 7 million people, we actually turned out to be about 2 minutes walk away from the hostel! The hostel was small but really quite nice, and cheap for Hong Kong. The address is Sincere House, 83 Argyle Street, Mongkok. There are loads of Guest Houses in this big building all run by the same family so if one is full they'll be able to show you to their cousin's/auntie's/brother's guest house, it's also in a cracking location (yep that's another plug).

On our first evening in Hong Kong we arranged to meet up with a friend of mine, Bryce, he's been living out here for 6 years now. Before meeting up with him we saw a bit of classic Hong Kong, we took the MTR (underground) to the bottom of Kowloon island before taking the Star Ferry over to Hong Kong island. This is easilly the best way to approach HK island is you're able to get a great view of the skyline as you approach it in addition to the natuaral beuty of being on a boat in the middle of this superb harbour. We met up with Bryce and he took us to a Mongolian restaurant for dinner. I don't think that there were any other tourists in the place as it was actually a bit tricky to find. It was superb, you had to create your own dinner. You'd fill a bowl with various meat, veg and sauces before handing it into the kitchen. Five minutes later they brought it to your table for (hopefully) a delicious combination of tastes, it was really a fantastic place. He was then able to show us around some of the other local attractions in this area.

We got up a little later than we really should have the next day before heading out for more sightseeing. First up we headed to the Peak on HK island, you take this narrow gauge funicular railway up to the top. It felt that the train was heading up this amazing steep hill yet our guide book stated that it only reached a angle of 27 degrees, I guess that's just really steep for a train. Whilst we were waiting to get on the tram an American guy from Utah tried to convert Nicola to Mormanism, she informed me afterwards that she likes to take these sort of challenges on and it'd be a cold day in Salt Lake City before she'd convert. You'd think that if you were on holiday in Hong Kong you'd have better things to do with your time rather than trying to convert other tourist, but hey that's up to them.

The view from the peak was superb, you got the reverse of the view from the Star Ferry as you got the great skyline with the harbour in the background. We spent a few hours up the top just looking at the view and examining the retail opportunities available. This is where I discovered I had a hidden desire to own a 60Gb colour photo iPod. This was fuelled when Nicola said that they cost about 500 pounds at home, yet we could get one for about 230 here. I was having a great time going round all the shops checking out the price and dreaming of twirling my finger around its wheel.

After this we caught a bus over to Stanley, it had a cracking little market there (no iPods though) where we were about to browse all sorts of nik naks to our hearts content. After a little while though Dave and I skulked off for a game of Chinese Chess which we didn't manage to finish (our series in China finished at 3.5 each, an honourable result for all involved). Stanley was really pretty to walk around but just so expensive, I get the feeling that there is some SERIOUS money tied up in the real estate around there.

On our way back to our Guest House we crossed the harbour using the Star Ferry again, this time getting the view in the evening. We stopped for a while at the bottom of Kowloon to try and snap the perfect evening shot of the harbour and buildings. This was followed by more shopping for iPods, I was practically salivating at the prospect, I've no idea where this desire came from as I have an excellent MP3 CD Player that was my leaving gift from Trigger Software (thanks again guys and girls). Later on after checking amazon I discovered that the iPod of my dreams actually only cost 280 pounds in the UK which meant that there was only a saving of 50 pounds - still really tempting though.

On another day we visited 'Ocean Park' which is a big theme park just outside of Aberdeen (fit like loons) on the southside of HK island. It was marvelous and we spent hours there going on the rides. Our favourites were definetly the massive rollercoaster and the free fall machine, where you dropped 60 meters (20 storeys) in a matter of seconds. It was a few minutes before my stomach joined me at the bottom of the ride.

Finally the desire for an iPod subsided after realising that really I didn't need to spend 230 quid on one, an amount of money that could keep me going for 2 weeks elsewhere, it was just clever marketting that was effecting me. I did console myself with a little purchase from a camera store, something that I actually do think will be really useful, a little tripod for my camera. Certainally not as funky as a iPod, but at only 4 pounds an absolute bargin!

Hong Kong also marked the end of the trail for our little gang of three. Due to my change of plans I'd be flying out of Hong Kong while David and Nicola headed onto Shanghai, we'd been travelling together for a month and it had been superb. I'd just had enough of China and wanted to head somewhere else. Thanks for all the fish and good luck avoiding all the nasty nasty toilets and food that you get in China, rather you than me.

A sad, dejected, lonely Ron headed to see the big buddha on Lantau island on his own. sniff. With a tear in his eye he climbed the steps and wept as he gazed apon the world's biggest outdoor bronze statue of Buddha. Without any hint of spring in his step he wandered around the adjoining temple grounds. He cursed his bad luck when his sandles broke when walking back to the bus to return to Mongkok. The drain devil gurgled at him as he dropped 10 HK Dollars down there when getting together the money for the bus. The gods sneered at him as he was caught in a really heavy rain storm back in Mongkok. The moths from his wallet flew in his face and into his mouth as he realised that he had enough money to get to the airport the next day, but no more. Finally he cried himself to sleep in the hope that Bangkok would bring better luck than this.

On the plus side, Hong Kong rocks. I don't think that there are many cooler cities in the world, it's been one of my favourite cities so far on this trip (along with UlaanBaatar and Beijing). Get yourself out here, the water's lovely.
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