Monday, August 30, 2010

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

The next morning Jessica and I checked out of our hostel and got a room in the Chungking Mansions. Dean had recommended a hotel called The Himalaya located on the 7th floor within the Mansions. This place was much cheaper than our ridiculously overpriced hostel, Yes Inn. But it was also a dump. It had 2 beds in a room the size of my closet and no windows. But hey, it's just a place to sleep, right? So yeah, the room sufficed.

After we got settled into our room we went downstairs and found an Internet cafe so I could call my mother through Skype and see if any progress had been made with my ATM debit card. My mother said that she'd spoken with someone at the bank and that it should work. So Jess and I left and began searching for an ATM. Once we found one I paused, took a deep breath and went in. Jessica stood beside me for moral support as I placed my card into the machine.

"And here . . . we . . . GO!"

I heard an unfamiliar sound after I entered the amount of money I requested to be withdrawn. "Is that the sound of money being collected?" I rhetorically asked aloud, with a hint of optimism within the tone of my voice. And sure enough a wad of cash was dispensed. "Yeah! WooHoo!" the both of us shouted, startling the elderly Asian man adjacent to us. "Oops. Sorry," we laughingly said. "Sorry."

Okay, so that only took 3 months to sort out. Geez. What a piece of mind, though. Thank you again, mother! You're the greatest personal administrative assistant that anyone could ask for. But seriously. You're awesome.

So with enough money in my pocket to last me a few weeks, we caught a bus heading towards Victoria's Peak, a scenic view point overlooking Hong Kong's marvelous metropolis. And it really was marvelous. We got lucky as I've often heard that, due to the weather, there's typically zero visibility. We waited a few hours for the sunset, too. Hong Kong has one of the most stunning skylines that I've seen. It was definitely one of the highlights of my travels.

Afterwards we went back to the Mansions, walked around town and saw one of the lamest markets that I've ever seen. Let's just make one thing clear: I'm not the biggest fan of markets. I'm always told that I should check out the local market in every new city I travel to.

"Check out the market."
"See the MARKET."

But it always disappointingly turns out to be exactly what they said it would be: a measly market. All a market is, essentially, is a roofless grocery/department store. And in all honesty your local store back home has more to offer, and more variety. Okay, okay. So some of the markets sell distinctively 'local' crafts; however, there isn't any innovation and everyone ends up selling the same product. Boring.

After the market and its inevitable let down, we made our way to Hong Kong's bar scene to get a taste of its night life. By the looks of it this was the place to be (for westerners), as the streets were flooded with a sea of white people. Jess and I slowly walked around, scoping the scene before buying a few beers from 7-11 and finding a few vacant steps to sit on off the side of the street before we began people watching.

"Is this it?" Jessica voiced, as we watched another drunken Asian woman with her westerner boyfriend walk past us. It was quite evident that the young Asian woman wasn't accustomed to drinking this much. "Is this all Hong Kong has to offer?" Jessica continued. "Am I missing something?" I knew what she was saying, because I was thinking the same thing. Macau and Hong Kong lack that certain vibe in which Southeast Asian countries certainly have.

Once we left and arrived at the subway station we disappointingly discovered that we had missed the last subway back. Ugh! This triggered Jessica to fall into a depression. "It's all my fault. I'm sorry!" she continued to apologize. She thought the last train didn't leave for another half hour. Oh, well. Honest mistake. So we walked around the corner to see if there were any night buses that we could catch back. Initially it appeared that there wasn't; however, after questioning enough people until we found a few that spoke relatively understandable English, we discovered that there was indeed a bus that we could take across the harbor, and from there, we would have to take a taxi. Nice! Thank the Lord we didn't have to take a taxi back because we were extremely far away, and my wallet would've been hurtin'.

Once we made it across the bridge we both estimated that, according to our map, we were close enough to walk the rest of the way, opting out of a taxi. And we were. Sweet! Walking back at night to the Mansions is something that I wouldn't let Jessica, or any woman I know for that matter, do alone. There's just too many dodgy looking people and monkey business going around outside, e.g., crooked looking Indians and Africans, and heaps of prostitution.

The next morning we slept in as our room didn't have any windows, making it difficult to determine what time it was. Next we went downstairs to the smallest Internet cafe in the world where we booked a hostel for the first 2 nights in Shanghai. Jessica also wrote down the address of a hostel in Shenzhen as we would be crossing over into China in a few hours. Ah, yes, China. I couldn't wait.

At the subway station as were about to board the train to China, I suddenly remembered that I'd forgotten my camera charger back at the Mansions. Ahhh! I had to go back - and fast. I had to get there before it was stolen and would have to buy it back from one of those dodgy cats working downstairs in the Mansions. I left my rucksack with Jessica and took off . . .

Word of advice: If you look occupied or in a hurry the touts at the Mansions will NOT bother you. Shocking. Positively shocking.

Finding myself out of breath and gasping for air, I managed to get back to the Mansions quite quickly. The door was locked at the hotel, so I frantically began knocking. When the man opened the door and saw it was me, he smiled, reached into the top drawer of his desk and pulled out my charger. Phew! What a relief. I was now officially ready for China.

Next: Shenzhen, China


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