09 Feb 2005

leaving hong kong

i arrived in hong kong on chinese new year eve, also known as "年三十晚." traditionally, you're supposed to have dinner with your family to end off the year. nowadays, it means shop till you drop. the shops all have sales happening because for the next couple of days not many people are going to be on the streets shopping. the reason is they'd be visiting family and friends during the couple of days, mainly to collect red packets (lai see) and to eat their food, spoil their carpets. the shops all open late as its going to be the last business they're doing for the next couple of days. some smaller shops don't even bother opening late because their bosses have to rush home for the traditional dinner. i was practically pushed out of a store while buying trinkets and stuff from a cheapo store.

more after the read more link.

i've never really been so glad to be in hong kong. in fact, most of the time i can't stand it. but this time, i was very glad to be alone. i really needed a break, not quite sure if hong kong and sydney was really the right place, but it'll do. actually made me quite fond of life in hong kong again, being able to eat any time, drink any time, shop any time. there's actually stuff here i want to spend money on!

anyway, i got around to do alot of shopping, mainly for my family. i got a shopping list from them, including video cameras, calculators, clothes, etc. i managed to get a pair of new shoes (grr .. actually wanted to buy two but there were heaps of ppl in the shoes shop, plus apparently it is traditional for people to wear new shoes on chinese new year, so many people were out buying new shoes for chinese new year) and also the olympus mju-mini camera that i've been drooling over for the last 6 months. i can finally take it off my amazon wishlist now ;)

apart from that, all i got were snacks and a mug. i wasn't really in the mood to shop at all. funny thing though, its around 24C in hong kong, but people are complaining that its too cold. i was walking around with a t-shirt, and people were asking me whether i was cold. i guess thats what happens after you've lived in cambridge for too long.

walking around hong kong and knowing chinese is quite an experience. i contend that chinese people (esp hong kong people) swear the most in the world. i don't know in what country that exists where people will insert expletives into nearly every second word when they talk about the most mundane things like getting a seat at a restaurant or the quality of fish balls that they just bought. being a foreigner an not knowing cantonese in hk is probably quite calming.

in the morning i raided mong kok, and in the evening i had my first sashimi in around 5 months. i think the last time i had it was in vancouver with francis. we had it at a pretty stylish place in the new century plaza in mong kok. i've forgotten the name of the place, but the decor is really nice. however, their service is close to non-existant. after we sat down, i think we struggled for around 10 minutes to get our order thru, and then we had trouble getting to give us more tea. i think they were seriously understaffed for chinese new year, but i was told by my relatives that its always like that there! the food was cheap tho!

after dinner, i did some more shopping for family, and then i mentioned that i wanted to go to a nice variety store called "log-on" in a plaza a little further away from mong kok called festival walk (又一成). the shop sells all sorts of cool japanese cheap gadgets, dolls, household items, gifts, etc. basically a place to suck all your hard earned cash out of your wallet. i bought a nice mug there which represented my mood >_< to my surprise i found a nice place called double-take that sold some trendy skateboarding style shirts, which is what i'm into these days. although, all i ended up getting was a beanie, coz they were out of sizes for most stuff.

i took the KCR there and back. basically thats the train, as opposed to the MTR which is the subway. yes, there's a subtle difference, but if you've been to tokyo or osaka you'd prob understand. the KCR has improved a whole bunch since i took it last (maybe like 7 years ago!) they have nice neon lights to tell you where the train is going to stop, to make sure you can't fall thru the 3cm gap between the train and the platform. the interior is much nicer now as well.

i was quite satisfied with my haul for the first day there, my second day in hong kong consisted of collecting lai see from relatives and having lunch and dinner with them. i managed to visit an old friend from sydney as well, having a very traditional hk style afternoon tea in a restaurant that had a tv playing brazil vs hong kong in a soccer exhibition match. by the time we tuned out, brazil was winning 3-0, no surprise there. i wonder how much they eventually lost by!

had dinner at my grandma's place. it was wonderful, because she makes this dish with deep-fried cashews. celery and beef. its really really nice, because it takes real skill to deep fry cashews, if the oil is too hot, it becomes burnt, if it is too cold, it becomes oily. apparently, on the whole table of 7, i was the only one who liked cashews. i haven't had those for years! and as usual, being the most loud mouth, i was the last to actually finish my dinner >_<

after dinner, i went back to my auntie's place to pick up my luggage and rush to the airport express train station. i found out, to my surprise, that you can check in there up to 90 minutes before the departure of your flight. i got there like 3 hours beforehand, so that was cool because it meant i didn't have to haul my luggage all the way to the airport.

after that, i was seriously contemplating of going back to town to continue shopping, but i decided that maybe i've had enough. got to the airport at around 10pm, and tried to find an internet cafe, or at least some wireless access.

so here's a tip if you are going to end up in hong kong airport -- if you want free internet access, bring your own mouse (or get proficient with keyboard shortcuts.) because at two sides of the airport is a coffee shop called pacific coffee. they have free internet access but without a mouse. you can borrow a mouse with a $100HK deposit, but you can avoid that step if you just be smart about it.

they also claim to have wireless hotspot there, but i couldn't find a single place where they had decent reception, and even when i got some reception, the speed was close to 9600bps. but the price is really cheap, only $4HK/day for wireless. thats an awesome deal compared to what you pay for in heathrow or sydney airport. hope that next time i'm there it'd work.

so i got my caffeine and internet fix there and actually nearly missed my flight. i was about the last person to go thru the gates. practically ran thru customs and to the gate. anyway, i ended up sitting next to some weird and opinionated australian who teaches at the university of macau (they have a university?) teaching some sort of literature course. didn't really understand what he was saying though.

so there we have it, nearly a full summary of what i've been up to for the last 48 hours. will post some quick snaps of hk later when i get my phone working. i hope that doesn't mean i have to call vodafone from australia just to get roaming enabled.

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