Hong-Kong, the second

Trip Start Jan 01, 2010
Trip End Jun 30, 2012

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

The story seems to repeat… with better winds. 6 hours and 10 minutes to Paris, 2 hours layover and 11 hours 30 minutes later, I was back in Hong-Kong. The weather was not better than the first time, the skyscrapers still as high, the air conditioning still as strong and the dorms still as tiny… However, Hong-Kong remains a convenient place to start or extend a trip in China, as visas are not necessary and Chinese visas quite easy to obtain (unless you are French). In my case, I still had my 2nd entry on my Chinese visa to use. Another 12 hours jet-lag in a week, in this direction it is more difficult. As soon as I checked at the hostel, I went to sleep the whole afternoon, got up at dusk to grab some food and went back to sleep. The next and the following day, I was still dizzy but I found some force to go to the French Embassy to get my new (free) passport. There is something wonderful in France, when your passport is full (or almost full when you are abroad), you can get a new one for free, with the same validity. Last year, I made a new passport after my old one got its 154th stamp : they were everywhere, even on the cover… But these people at the city hall forgot to cancel my old one and made another mistake : they gave me a 10-year validity instead of the remaining time (3 years). And now, I have my new passport with its 10 year-validity almost full after only one year (this is the problem of traveling in Asia, where for nearly every country a visa is needed).

So, before I flew to Montreal I went to the French Embassy and showed my new passport : "Guys, my passport is almost full, I need a new one". One week later, as I was still in Montreal, they told me my new passport was ready. These bureaucrats seemed more competent : my new passport had the same validity than my old one (2019) and before they gave it to me, they asked for the old one, to cancel it. It is when I fucked them, I gave them my very old passport (the one that expires in 2012), and they did not check if it was the one I asked to be renewed. I now have 2 passports that expires in 2019 ! It is very good deal, to have 2 passports. I now have a spare one and can still travel with my current passport with its very few remaining blank pages. And first consequence, I am not obliged anymore to wait 7 days in Hong-Kong to get my Russian visa, I can ship my spare passport to France, make my visa there and get it back before I cross the border !

On my 3rd day in Hong-Kong, Charlotte, a girl I had met in Laos and who apparently had fallen in love, met me to travel in China the following weeks. I am definitely not going to the Philippines in order to stay more in China. 1 month and a half, may be 2. I will have to extend my 30 days visa somewhere, that should not be a problem. Our first action-point was to move from Hong-Kong island to Kowloon neighborhood, on the mainland, for cheaper accommodation in the infamous Chungking Mansions, where beds can be found for as little as 10$. We still had no chance with Couchsurfing.

Our last day in Hong-Kong was quite intense. It was Wednesday, meaning free entry in most of the museums. I had visited some last time, but there were other to see and the History Museum definitely deserved another visit. And at the end of the afternoon, I got my interview with the French Chamber of Commerce to avail job opportunities in Hong-Kong and Southern China. Maybe a few options, but I am realizing I would not be happy in Hong-Kong : too busy a city, too tiny, clouds all year. However, I left the door open for opportunities in Guangzhou or Shenzhen, but without too much insistence. When I put in the balance my future travels in Central Asia and in the Middle-East, I realize that China can wait a little bit. After all, I am Permanent Resident in Brazil and Canada, and the doors of Israel are open for me, I guess I have enough possibilities for a lifetime !

 The next day, after climbing Victoria Peak and buying a new digital camera for a bargain, we left to Macau, another Special Administrative Region (SAR), an old Portuguese colony returned to China in 1999, just after Hong-Kong which was returned by the British in 1997. We took the hydro-speed for the one hour trip, as the 35km long bridge, the longest in the world, will be completed only in a few years. Macau is very weird : a Brazilian atmosphere, with all the signs written in Portuguese, but nobody actually speaking Portuguese… Since Macau was returned to China, it has become the capital of gambling, since it is forbidden in mainland China, and many Chinese tour groups go there all year round to gamble astronomic amounts : Macau makes much more money than Las Vegas ! Even if Macau is now technically part of China, the Chinese government tries to limit the influx of Chinese, only residents of 40 or 50 cities in China are allowed to travel to Macau (but wealthy residents of other cities always find a way to come, too) once every 2 months.

 I learned all this things thanks to Matthew, our host on Couchsurfing, who is an American who came to Macau to invest in Casinos. He showed us around the first night, in a tour he himself called "Macau yesterday, today & tomorrow". From the old traditional casinos to the new palaces, especially Venetian, the casino featuring a reproduction of the canals of Venice and Piazza San Marco (the Chinese tour groups become crazy when they visit the place). The highlight was however the visit of the brothel, with girls grouped by origins and binoculars provided to look at every detail. The girls had different prices according to their origins : the Thai girl were cheaper than the Chinese one… It was a great time, except for Charlotte who had to wait for us outside. Sometimes it is boring to be a girl !
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