Monday, August 30, 2010

Lost in Translation, Hong Kong 1 of 2: 10 Days With My Cousin Traveling Through Macau, Hong Kong & China.


It took an hour to reach Hong Kong via ferry. After the ferry safely docked into Hong Kong's harbor we immediately began searching for a hostel called Yes Inn which came highly recommended by Sara. Jessica and I found the subway system in Hong Kong to be surprisingly complicated. The signs were not well marked or posted, making it difficult to know what direction we needed to go, what subway line to take, just . . . everything. We couldn't for the life of us understand why Hong Kong made the subway or everything else for that matter so confusing. Jessica and I frequently repeated, "Why, Hong Kong? Why?!" throughout our travels here, particularly when we found ourselves frustrated.

We got off at Central Station thinking that's where we needed to go. Wrong. Only after using the free Internet service, located in Central Station where we checked the address of the hostel, did we discover that we needed to get off at Fortress Hill Station. We eventually found this godforsaken hostel located inside some residential building. We hadn't made a reservation so we were relieved when the receptionist said that there were beds available. Phew!

"And with the service fee, the total of your bill is . . ."

I stopped listening after I heard the words 'service fee'. A service fee? That's not so hot. I wasn't happy about this, to say the least. I mean why would they charge us a service fee to use THEIR business. This got my blood boiling. And it didn't help that it had been a long day and that the both of us were hungry and tired. "Why, Hong Kong? Why?!"

After we put away our luggage in our dormitory - we also had difficulty finding this too, as it was located on the other side of the building where we had to use another elevator - we went back to the main communal area where I attempted to do some research about what to see and do while in Hong Kong. The receptionist was of little help, if any. She couldn't give me any helpful suggestions. Zippo. Then I began speaking with the girl sitting next to me. She said she was from Quebec and that she'd been here for about 5 days. "Oh, Canadian," I said, just being friendly. "Nice."

"French Canadian," she quickly interjected. Oooh, French Canadian. Sorry. I wouldn't want to confuse you with the 'other' type of Canadians. Sheesh. Anyways, since she said she'd been here for a few days I asked her if she could recommend anything to do. Um, yeah. She couldn't tell me anything. Seriously? Nothing? Does ANYONE know ANYTHING around here? "Why, Hong Kong? Why?!"

I eventually had my first and only meal of the day at some Chinese fast food restaurant located across the street from our hostel. It was cheap for Hong Kong's standards, but it was definitely more expensive than I was accustomed to spending for a measly meal. Nor was it as good. Afterwards we had dessert at some bakery, and it was gross - really gross. I quickly began missing Southeast Asia. It had been a long, tiresome day. So we went back to our dormitory and went to sleep. Eh . . .

We woke up early the next morning and went to Kowloon to purchase train tickets to Shanghai. We approached the ticket office praying that there would be availability for any of the dates that we wanted. "Sorry," the lady at the ticket office said, "But the next two weeks are sold out to Shanghai." Jessica immediately placed her forehead on the counter upon hearing the news and went straight into a depression. However, we went to another ticket office and had better luck. There were 2 hard sleepers available from Shenzhen, China to Shanghai on Monday, in about 3 days. We bought 'em.

Feeling relieved that we had our transportation secured for Shanghai we happily boarded the subway to Lantau Island to see the Big Buddha. And it was a pretty big Big Buddha, too. Prettay . . . Prettay . . . Prettay . . . Prettay big.

To reach the vicinity that the Big Buddha was located we decided to take the scenic cable car. I also attempted to purchase the ticket with my new ATM debit card which my mother promptly mailed to Jessica. Result? Declined. Oh, boy. This was not a good sign. I did my best not allowing it to upset me. Waiting in line for the cable car was like waiting in line for a stellar roller coaster ride at Six Flags Theme Park. We probably waited over an hour before we were lifted away. The scenic cable car was indeed scenic, but freakin' hot. A little too hot for my liking, and especially for Jessica's. "Where's the breeze at?" she said, as she fanned herself to feel cooler to no avail. Once we exited the cable car there were signs directing us to Big Buddha, as if we wouldn't be able to find it.

Afterwards we were feeling tired, so we headed back to our hostel. But first I attempted to withdraw money with my ATM card. I found a Citibank and went inside to have them run the card themselves. Declined. Then I used an ATM nearby our hostel and tried my luck there. Declined. Ugh! Not again. "Nooooooooooooooo!"

I emailed my mother and informed her of the situation. Hopefully she could work her magic, and fast. I was officially about out of money and I didn't want to use my credit card for a cash advance because of the harsh fees.

Later, Jess and I met 2 roommates back in the dormitory: a girl from Australia and a girl from England. They invited us to join them to the nightly skyline light show downtown as we mentioned that we would be attending it that evening, too. I was wondering what type of backpackers I was going to meet on this leg of my journey and thus far I hadn't been too impressed. I wasn't too enthused with the invite, either, but I didn't see any way out of it. Dammit.

We took the ferry across and arrived just as the light show was ending. It was pretty lame, anyways. We didn't miss much. We eventually parted ways with the girls. What a relief. And Jessica and I enjoyed Hong Kong's beautiful skyline for a while before strolling along the Avenue of Stars. I really only knew two of the stars: Jackie Chan & Bruce Lee. Speaking of Bruce Lee. After I took a picture of Jessica laying down next to his star, a young Chinese guy approached and stepped on it. "Hey, whoa," I jokingly said to the guy. "Dude, you can't be steppin' on Bruce Lee like that." "Oh, sorry! Sorry, sorry," he responded. And he really was, too. Jess and I got a good laugh out of that.

Next we began walking towards Nathan Road to see the infamous Chungking Mansions, a real seedy backpacker ghetto. I mentioned to Jess that my friend, Dean, who I'd met in Kuala Lumpur, was suppose to be in Hong Kong and that I should try to get in touch with him. Within the next 5 minutes we found ourselves on a street absent of any people except for one guy, a loner, heading in our direction. And wouldn't you know . . . it was Dean. What are the flippin' chances, right? This was another case where my thoughts seemed to have influence reality, i.e. The Law of Attraction. I love it.

After we gave one another a hug I introduced him to Jessica. "Dean, Jessica. Jessica, Dean." And as Jessica reached to shake his hand, Dean leaned in and gave her a hug as well. "Ah, you're getting a hug too," he said, smiling and laughing. When he asked us what we were up to, I told him that we were going to check out the Mansions. "That's where I'm staying," he said. Of course it was! So he showed us where it was, and Jessica took a picture of us standing in front of its entrance.

Next we began the hunt for an air-conditioned bar with music. We couldn't find anything except for one jazz pub. The pub had a nice vibe: it was crazy crowded and had live music. However, the price for a beer was insanely expensive. Dean, whose a cheap bastard like myself, looked up at me after reading the menu, nodded his head towards the exit as if to say, "Let's get the hell outta here. Pronto!" He didn't have to gesture to me twice. So we left. "Sorry guys," Dean said as we exited the bar and into the street. "I just couldn't justify spending that much money for a beer when I can go to a 7-11." And that's exactly where we went.

So instead of finding an air-con pub with music to enjoy a few drinks, we purchased a few cheap cans of beer and found a comfy concrete slab to sit on off the side of the street. "Cheers," we all said as we touched one anothers cans. It was so damn hot and humid in Hong Kong that my face was perspiring as much as my cold can of beer. Dean was in the final stretch of his travels. After traveling for an entire year he was returning home in a few days to Canada. He shared some memorable stories with us, and even relived some funny moments that we shared together in K.L. It's hard to fathom that in 3 months it'll be my anniversary. So Dean, here's to you. Salute!


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