Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Adventures in Hong Kong, day 1

I'm not a luxury girl. Sure, I appreciate a nicer stay, but I'm pretty ok with the average one. That's a good thing, because the path we've chosen to take in life could be characterized as "economy." I don't mind this because it means we end up living closer to local in most places, and I find it much more interesting. So in choosing a place to stay for our time in Hong Kong, we opted for a downtown hostel as opposed to a southern hotel, since it was half the price.

I began to question that choice when, as we approached the hostel, we found ourselves in a part of Hong Kong that I have only seen in movies like Mission Impossible and 007. Minus the motorcycle chases with crazy stunts that have been disproven as impossible by Mythbusters. The part of Hong Kong where the neon lights are so bright that it feels like daytime all night long, and the other hotels are pay by the hour.

Fortunately, our place is on the 9th floor, and while it's not exactly 5 star (or even warranting stars) it's new, clean, quiet, and the manager is a sweet and helpful woman with impeccable English. Sure, I have to sit sideways on the toilet because the bathroom is smaller than a closet, but sitting forward is so overrated. It has air con, and internet access, and we're the only ones staying here it seems, so we're ok. And we're only here three nights before we move over to one of the Disney resorts. We're just staying here to make that seem even MORE fantastic.

The purpose of our visit to Hong Kong is to obtain visas. We have letters of invitation from our company to get business visas. We came here with some trepidation as we were told by a few sources that this kind of visa must be obtained in your "country of origin" which for us means Singapore. So we came here knowing that it was quite possible we'd be boarding a plane back there if this didn't pan out.

But, armed with our Jedi mind tricks ("You don't need to go back to your country of origin for these visas. Move along"), and prepared for at least a 2 hour wait, we hopped the MTR (subway) to the embassy. 23 minutes later we were back on streets having submitted said visas without a hitch, and we weren't quite sure what to do with ourselves. Finally we took the Peak Tram up Victoria Peak where we saw a beautiful view for about 5 minutes before we were swallowed by clouds and enjoyed a nice rainstorm. We probably should have quit there and gone back to our little hostel, but took a taxi across the island to Stanley Market. We'd heard good things about it, but when we got there, we realized we had no money, the exchange rate was terrible, and let's face it - living in Asia 10 years means we've seen our share of markets. Taking a double decker bus back downtown afforded a beautiful view of the coast, then we joined the evening commute (read "thousands of Hong Kong residents") back to Mong Kok.

There are several things which I've observed about Hong Kong: first, I didn't realize they spoke so much English here. Really, this should never surprise me about a former British colony. Those British leave their mark. I am also surprised by how many people can speak Mandarin, since this is a Cantonese speaking area. This means many people here are trilingual and I am supremely jealous. I only know one phrase in Cantonese which is "Where is the McDonald's?" This is an important phrase in any country because it will get you food you recognize and decent bathrooms. Second, I've never seen so many tall buildings in one place. They've certainly made good use of their limited real estate. Third, mango tic tacs and Mentos gum - very fun! Fourth, while parts of Hong Kong are offensively urban, others are amazingly beautiful. Finally, the public transportation system here is quite similar to Singapore's, and boy do a lot of people use it. I've never seen so many people use the subway at once.

Day 1 in Hong Kong complete.

1 comment:

Amy :) said...

Hi Gina,

Just thought I'd leave a comment so you know people are reading your blog!

I thought the post about remembering part of the sentence but not the critical part was very interesting. My 12-year old daughter & I were just talking about what it must be like to be able to think in another language, and I told her what you had written about.

Here in Arizona, there are a lot of Spanish-only speakers, and we need to learn the language so we can talk to our neighbor who doesn't speak English!

Anyway, we've been praying for you guys...

Amy :)