“Clearance received & don’t spread germs!”, Hong Kong, October 28th, 2011

Why did I go to Hong Kong, why in October (the 20th to be exact)? For 3 reasons I suppose. I always wanted to go there. It’s not on my path back to Germany early next year and I need a Visa for India. In Singapore, Manila and Kuala Lumpur it seemed very difficult. The flight here was cheap but finding a place to stay almost made me cancel the journey. It ranges from expensive to very expensive. Choosing the months of fairs does not help either but I ended up in a great location (downtown Kowloon) paying 25€ per night. “Space is an issue.” the Indian guy said when he made me a good offer for a whole week, moving me from a room with no space to a bed with walls. It had internet, air conditioning and a shower, I am not claustrophobic so it became my home. Also you not intended to stay here much, rather go out and enjoy a “healthy breakfast” at McCafe. Smile.

Using the very efficient MRT subway system I made my first observation of a mega city. “Don’t spread germs!” and “cover your mouth when sneezing.” common, give me a break.

In Manila I met David’s friend Ed from Hong Kong. Now here he took me for a run up the mountain and later I met his wife Alison. They gave me a fantastic time in Hong Kong. Without them 9 days is definitely too much, with them time passes fast. The first night they took me to a special event.  I guess I was meant to attend the first Oktoberfest ever not in Germany but rather in Hong Kong.

This very same night we also checked out a couple of bars on Hongkong Island with live cover bands. They are really good and when they played REM I got extremely excited. REM has become my world trip music. The

Then it was time to get my camera out. I call it “procrastination at its best.” I wanted to buy a new lens here but hesitated with the purchase. It turns out that Chris, Ed’s friend has exactly the lens I am looking for and lends it to me for a few days. How cool is that? I started with Kowloon, the mainland area where all tourists stay, where all the markets are and where the locals do business if you go far enough north.

The Central island is rather the business district, built on a mountain and has varies specialities., skyscrapers very close to the water, the famous trams and the escalator. The richer, the further up the mountain you live, the less you want to walk. So they built this network of escalators right through Central, passing apartment windows, going down in the morning (you need to get to your banking job) and up in the evening. Much discussed it is now appreciated by everyone.

A fun story. You will see a photo with a sign saying “Rednaxela” terrace.  Well, when the Chinese translated there names into English they spelled it the wrong. It should be Alexander terrace. The locals thought it was funny and kept it that way ever since.

A not so fun story. Ed, showing me around, told me about the hard life of trees here. People want to cut them to get more space or less dirt or whatever. So there are hardly any trees. Those who survive seem to have quiet a fighting spirit, almost having a anger attitude. “No, I refuse to die, I rather grow my routes through the stone.” or “I live as the only tree in the entire street.”

The night markets of Kowloon also offer the full potential of Hong Kong live style. Big shopping palaces with all modern brands you can thinks off, then around the corner little stalls, cramped markets and a round another corner fresh fish and all sorts of things to eat (I suppose).

I like to observe and spending 9 days in a city gives you plenty of time to do so. In my opinion on Hong Kong is divided as I am divided too. I love infrastructure, I love having wife everywhere, I enjoy efficient transport but seeing everyone on the phone, always, watching never ending traffic jams and poor beggars sleeping in front of a Rolex store makes me sick. I tried to capture the “Reality” of Hong Kong with the following photos. The last one show a yoghurt which costs 35 cents in Germany, having travelled around half the world (bad enough) it costs 2€ here. Expatriate food I call it.

The following video is only interesting in the context above. Listen to the sound of the counting gate and know that this flow of people entering the subway station never slows down.

However, Hong Kong’s inhabitants do have places to escape. Little island around can be reaches by ferry. I visited Cheng Cheau for a few hours, entering a cave and going on a little boat. It was nice despite the McDonald that also “welcomes” you here when exiting the ferry.

Macau, just an hour ferry ride away is another “special area” of China. By now known as the biggest gambling city in the world it has twice the turnover of Las Vegas. But it also offers some historical sights from its Portuguese colonisation times.

Ed joined me going here but with both of us liking Poker we had a good dinner and went to the Wynn hotel. For all that know poker here is what happened to me. Having As jack I raise, with As As 3 on the board I raise again, as turn is a 7 I go all in. This other guy calls me and shows cards. He has As nine. No flushes possible. I have therefore a 94% chance of winning. What happens on the river? Of course, his 6% winning chance kicks in, he gets a nine and my night is over.

Oh man, I was so angry it was good that I had to leave soon. Back in Hong Kong I had good news, “clearance received” it said and I got my Indian Visa, also I booked a cheap flight for Nepeal. But first its time to train for that by going to Borneo, mount Kinabalu is waiting to be climbed. I have the right equipment. For my birthday Ed gave me a watch with altitude measuring. Fantastic and if you wonder, I had my birthday but I did not age. Smile.

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