06.07.2014 - 11.07.2014 32 °C
When I was checking in at Auckland, the ground staff were a bit worried that it was a one way booking, and wanted me to show them I had an onward ticket, warning me that without it, getting into Hong Kong could be tricky. If they only knew! I was ushered to a counter where the fellow was already talking - I don't know if he had some sort of ear-piece, if he was talking to his colleague (who did not seem to be paying any attention) or if he was just mad. In any event, he never stopped talking - just took my passport, ripped off the top cover of my entry card, put a small piece of paper in my passport (I have NO stamps at all) and handed it back - never addressing a word or even a gesture in my direction.
I've been here just over a week now, in a city in the New Territories called Tsuen Wan. A hundred years ago, there was a saying along the lines that if you want a golden life, you go to California; if you want to die, you go to Tsuen Wan. I came here because I was careless with my hotel booking - I found a decent room for a decent price and really had no idea where it was. I was a little perturbed to find it was actually on the same street as the first hotel I stayed in, then confused to find the two hotels are 6 kilometres apart. After the space of that first hotel, the size of this one came as a bit of a shock (I am pressed against the wall to take this photo)
I grew quite fond of the hotel (the Silka Far East) and its cosy room, and the fact that if you came in around 10:00 pm, the foyer would be crowded with people off tour buses and it could take ten minutes or more to get on a lift. It had a brilliant bakery right next door (I was there when they brought out freshly baked loaves of raison bread - I had no way to deal with one, but they would have been great for an X-Files night back home) and a 7-Eleven behind it for when a craving for beer came on at midnight.
Tsuen Wan was originally settled by the Hakka (or guest people): back in 1662, the mainland Chinese emperor decreed that no-one was to live near the coast (it was a defensive measure but sounds a bit loopy as invaders would get a free pass off the sea), then when the decree was lifted, clans settled in the coastal areas and in Tsuen Wan. Apparently not much changed until land was needed for housing around the middle of the 20th century. The one museum in Tsuen Wan is one of these Hakka enclaves - it had maybe ten four bedroom houses, three halls and a central shrine.
Things have changed - here's the view out of my hotel window, then a few random street scenes as I wandered around
I have to say that I really enjoyed my week here, and could probably have stayed my whole month here (although that would be a bit weird as it would mean not seeing the rest of Hong Kong, a bit like going to Cambodia and not going to Angkor Wat - oh, wait, I did that). But it has been a good way to spend my time - I'm working, so I'd stay in my hotel room for that, but for each meal, go for a 2-3 hour walk. I did find that my path almost always took me to a McCafe - I didn't see anywhere else that sold coffee, only one was undrinkable and it was cheap. The menu price was $22 but they always charged me $12 - it might be an old person's discount, but it has been the same in five different McCafes (they really are plastered all over the place and all are very busy). My favourite eating option is the Tsui Wah restaurant - open 24 hours, decent food, nice people running it
I've only once gone into a place that has no English menu, but it was pretty easy as I could point and get my favourite (duck)
Other bits I've had to eat:
The last was called Chongqing style chicken - I was in Chongqing earlier in the year and had chicken, but it looked nothing like this - but it was nicely cooked, tender, moist and had a startling level of heat dusted on to it. There have been a couple of other odd incidents - one day I was in the Tsui Wah and someone dressed like a naval officer came in and demanded to inspect their books (TV watching makes me wonder if she was actually a customs officer) and then another day a travel agency had what looked like a flashmob (do people still do that?) - about a hundred people descended on it, flapping bits of paper. I initially thought it was some kind of party and went in, but nah, no party.
I read in the paper that a typhoon hit Japan and coastal China Tuesday - that explains the weather we had: it rained steadily for about four hours, there was plenty of lightning and, most impressive of all, the thunder sounding like aerial combat in a war zone. I've also been reading in the paper about the long list of legislation to be passed before the LegCo goes into summer recess, the urgency, the accusations that those who oppose the bills (with what seem to me quite legitimate concerns - why wouldn't someone challenge a tripling of stamp tax?) of filibustering, the accusations that the government set agenda means that bills that are to protect people won't get dealt with - all a bit familiar, really.
I'll finish with some other pictures I took as I wandered around with my camera:
The last is the only that might need explanation - it is a mah jong shop.