Hung Over in Hong Kong

November 18, 2006 — Sa Wat Dema

Hong Kong to me is eating duck tongues in a local bar while drinking with a millionaire Chinese accountant and his brother, the coach of the world championship Kendo team. Really, that was my Friday night. It began as most of our group went out to celebrate our last night together. Through a deadly combination of many rounds of quarters (a drinking game that I am proud to say I was the first to teach our motley group of Australians and Canadians), followed by the graciousness and many beers of our new found Hong Kong friends, the night was a good one though this morning has been a bit rough.

Hong Kong is really an unusual place despite the 66 Starbucks locations and street signs in English (as well as Cantonese). And yes, we did actually visit a starbucks yesterday and I had a green tea frappacinno (I mean, we are in the land of tea here, though I must say it tasted the same as ever). Compared to the rest of China (and by the way, you do have to go through customs to get into Hong Kong), Hong Kong is super expensive – it is even expensive by our standards; we’re talking $3 for a can of coke. Coming from a place where your average meal is about $1.50, it is a big shock. I am staying on the mainland part of Hong Kong called Kowloon, which is separated from Hong Kong Island by a busy harbor. As you stare over the harbor on the Kowloon side, you see a skyline like nothing else I have ever been. It is truly amazing. The whole harbor as far as you can see in both directions is lined with skyscrapers. Most are covered with neon signs as well which light up in a fantastic display at 8 pm every evening.

Every time I see the Chicago skyline, I can’t help but wonder when there will be a DEMA building among those giants. I had very much the same feeling here. I am not talking about a sense of entitlement, more just of industrial zeal. It’s like if all of those guys can make it, I think I can too. Talking with my friends Ewen and Jason, they didn’t quite feel the same way – Jason would be happy with just the name of his tour company on top of one of those buildings and Ewen would be fine with eating in a restaurant in one of them, so I guess the building part is up to me. Well, we will have to see how close I come by the next time I am here.

In Hong Kong, there are people everywhere, which I guess is to be expected in a city of 15 million. Imagine the most crowded mall you have ever walked through, triple that number of people squishing all around you, and you will have maybe one of the small side streets here at an off time. I walked around this morning down the shopping district and there were literally 1 million people on the same side of the street as me. I know; I counted.

A small digression about our last days in Yangshuo…

All over china, we have seen the ubiquitous groups of Chinese tourists - huge swarms of people, all wearing red or yellow baseball hats, complete with a leader carrying a little flag on a stick. I had a revelation about these tourists on our last day in Yangshuo – you see them constantly riding down the streets of that relatively small town in these tiny electric buses taking in the sites. It is a very cool town with good nightlife, but I could never figure out what they were looking at, what they found so interesting. Finally, after seeing probably the 20th little bus ride by with a dozen Chinese tourists gawking at me, I realized… I am the attraction! They come to Yangshuo because it is a very western city with many foreign travelers. They had come to see westerners like me. That is a pretty shocking revelation to have – the fact that you could be a tourist attraction. It puts things in perspective a bit – think about that next time you head to the Wisconsin Dells.

Although, Yangshuo definitely made up for it – it is also a place that many young chinese come to learn english and you will see them strolling the streets in the evening carrying their lesson books just waiting for an unsuspecting foreigner on which to practice their english. If you are not careful, you will turn around and be attacked by a dozen Chinese highschool girls who want to talk to you and giggle at everything you say. I actually had one group that I think believed that I was actually Tom Cruise for the whole 15 minutes they were talking with me. More than the talking though, I think the main objective is actually to get your email address so they can have a western english-speaking pen pal. You feel a bit like a celebrity throughout the whole process, though I suspect I currently have about a hundred emails from China waiting in my In Box! It is actually a really great experience for them, and you can learn a lot of Chinese as well. And with every school kid you meet that is perfecting their english, you can see how bright the future of China will be (and there are literally signs hanging outside the language schools that say things like “Success in English = Success in Life!”).

The trip from Yangshuo to Hong Kong was another overnight train ride (remember, China is big). Though this ride was pretty easy because I spent my last afternoon in Yangshuo rock climbing and thus went to sleep that night easily. You can not imagine the scenery of Yangshuo – the land is completely flat but every few hundred meters, a huge limestone tower rises out of the earth. The whole place looks like it is covered in coneheads. The climbing is thus excellent and I did some of the hardest routes I have ever tried. We also took a boat ride down one of the local rivers which was bordered on both sides by those huge limestone karsts. It was pretty cool. We even went to the exact bend in the river that is depicted on the 20-dollar note here. I have the photos to prove it.

Quick Question: If you get shanghai’d in Shang Hai, where do you get taken? My guess is San Francisco.

Anyway, back to Hong Kong…

I have one last weekend in Asia and I’ll spend it here in Hong Kong. I may take the ferry to Macau for the day tomorrow as well. This will probably be my last official post before my return, though I may write again tomorrow or Monday morning. If it is, I would like to say that I will see you all very soon (I will be home Monday evening) and thanks so much for keeping in touch on the blog. You are all welcome to join me in my re-fattening process that will ensue as soon as I return through a strict regimen of eating nothing but Chipotle and Buffalo Joe’s wings. I also have literally 9 gigs of photos and videos to show you all. And finally, you should all prepare yourselves for the upcoming, now-infamous, Thai-inspired, “bucket” party that will happen soon. Get ready, because Sa Wat Dema is coming home!

See you all stateside!


Subscribe and get notified to hear about future adventures.