“Lucky Man”

February 14, 2010

Slept until almost half eleven, and I was wandering around for hours until I actually woke up. Decided to pay for another night in the cell, as I couldn’t be bothered to find somewhere else. Plus I wasn’t robbed or raped, so it met my minimum requirements.

I left via the stairwell, and almost trod on a couple of people sleeping there. It was a pretty manky and depressing place for a home; but it did inexplicably smell of rosemary, so I guess that takes the edge off.

I hopped on the ferry over to Hong Kong island, which was incredibly businessy and skyscrapery.
(I haven’t got much more to say about it, to be honest.)

I got collared and scammed by an “astrology student” in a mall, and let him do his thing as I found it entertaining. He spoke at me at a thousand miles an hour about having “powers” and being able to “see things” – such as my being a “lucky man” (and having ‘mug’ emblazoned on my forehead, presumably). At the beginning he wrote some things on a docket, scrunched it up and made me hold it in my hand. He told me I’d have three “lucky” days in the next couple of months, including the 20th of February. Stay tuned to see if that holds true. I put my hand on an overly-Photoshopped picture of his dreadlocked yogi sitting atop a mountain, he breathed on it, and lo! – I was granted future luck. I was asked to unfold the docket, and all of his ‘predictions’ about me had come true (two were as tenuous as fuck, but he did admittedly guess my age correctly). I was expecting the hook when it came… to a degree. He asked me for “note money” (of course), so I gave him ten bucks. He seemed insulted, and asked me for at least a hundred. A HUNDRED! I balked. When I told him this was too much, and he argued that he was a student, not a beggar. I pointed out that the $500 note in his wallet – presumably to solicit higher donations from his ‘clients’ – was more than I had for the rest of my stay.  He pointed out that $10 was the equivalent of a quid. So I gave him an extra $20. I apologised, told him he seemed nice, wished him luck and left with a wink. I don’t believe in any of that stuff – hence I couldn’t swallow that the $100 price tag would’ve been an investment in my future happiness. But $30 – a pint, essentially – seemed a reasonable exchange for an entertaining diversion. He seemed happy with this compromise, and so called off the clouds of bad luck that he’d been summoning for me.

I decide to escape the CBD, head over to Lantau Island and catch the cable car to Ngong Ping – a monastery in the mountains with a big Buddha statue.

Ok, so the cable car journey shit up me proper! The view wasn’t terrific as it was really foggy, but – honestly – I think that probably saved me from going batshit mental with terror. Plus, it was like travelling to the clouds. The island is truly shrouded with mystery! And, by ‘mystery’, I of course mean small atmospheric droplets of water.

I had a glass of wine in the monk-sanctioned café, mooched around the monastery, and went up the endless stairs to have a natter with the big Buddha. He was pretty reserved, but I think we understood each other.

I found myself wondering why the cock the monks had chosen to pitch up where they did exactly, all the way across the mountains. I’d seen the track going through the woods beneath the cable car, and thought that it must’ve been a nightmare to traverse, let alone actually lay in the first place. Then, as we pulled away and the sunset broke through the mist, it occurred to me – it’s absolutely beautiful there. Sadly this photo doesn’t do it justice, but the way the clouds were combed over the mountains was bona fide magic:

So, to follow a bang with a whimper, I went to the Hong Kong Symphony Of Lights with a beer. For those not in the know, this is a nightly performance where the skyscrapers on the water do a light show in time with some music. And I can officially report that is was SPECTACULAR in its capacity to be underwhelming. Symphony Of Shite*.

Not much else to report really. I went on a hapless search for a decent bar, and the most promising lead turned out to be full of western businessmen, and two Chinese girls presumably looking for western businessmen. I think I’ll take a guide next time. By which I mean a guide to Hong Kong – not a girl guide. Er… I think maybe it’s time to stop.

*Sincerest apologies to my Faecesbook friends, who’ve already had to endure this ‘joke’.

Hong Kong Phooey

February 8, 2010

So I had a selection of goodbyes, including a jaunt to a new rock bar in Cardiff followed by some pretty bad drunkaoke (I sang a song by the Crash Test Dummies). I moved loads of my stuff out of my flat for the chap who’s subletting, squeezed in an emergency dental appointment, and then escaped Cardiff, followed by the UK.

The flight was pretty uneventful, all told. Which – after last time – is really just as well.

Before getting to Hong Kong, I’d done pretty much no research. A chum had told me that Kowloon was good and cheap, so I winged a bus in, and got out where a bunch of other backpackers did. I was instantly collared like the tourist I was by Adil, who offered me cheap ‘guesthouse’ accommodation. I tried to take the card he was offering, but he didn’t let go, and insisted on showing me a room. As the flight had been delayed and it was getting a bit late in the day, I decided – against my better judgement – to go and see the room. It was, after all, certainly cheap.

And nasty.

The room was on the 14th floor of a building where the ‘reception’ appeared to be a selection of stands selling mobiles, electronic components, grot mags and dildos. And the room was tiny and gross, with no natural light.
“Yeah, I’m gonna look around a bit more. I might be back.”
“That’s ok – you can leave your bags here. Pay later.”
“Um… I’m not sure you’re quite following me Adil.”
It took me a while to hit the message home to Adil that I was still window shopping, and leaving without handing over any cash evoked a degree of obstinacy in me I previously hadn’t thought possible. Adil looked hurt when he realised his sale was slipping away. But that’s what you get for being pushy. Oh, and for trying to peddle the grubbiest, seediest roach-infested grimhole in Hong Kong.

I’d seen a faux-Irish bar a few doors down, so I went in there for some accommodation advice. It was getting dark, and I wasn’t quite ready to go fully native yet. The girl behind the bar told me she had a friend who might have a room, and she’d give him a call. I had a pint, and was greeted by another member of staff as I left, who introduced me to someone in the street, who introduced me to someone else, who led me to EXACTLY THE SAME PLACE! I can never escape! I initially protested that I’d already been there, but it fell on deaf ears. And so – out of pure politeness – I allowed myself to be led back to the metal lift leading back up into the filthy tower of eternal recurrence.

This time it was only on the fifth floor. And the sign that greeted me as I got out extended a warm, hospitable hand of promise:

Delux room! And the place had clearly been sanctioned by royalty! What could possibly go wrong?

A northern couple I’d spoken to briefly in the lift told me that they were paying HK$220 for a “cell”. I was quoted HK$180 for the room I was shown, figured that this was probably par for the course, and paid the man. This was my delux room:

Actually, it doesn’t look so bad from that photo. Just out of shot is a wall made of panels held together by sellotape. And out of the window was a grimy goldfish bowl (tube?) of other windows showcasing all sorts of residents whose actions and states of undress were entirely out of keeping with the openness of their curtains.

I wandered around for a bit to get my bearings, and took the odd photo:

I went for a meal and then tried to find a decent bar. To those not in the know, this proved trickier than it sounds. I did eventually stumble into a bar which had the most incredible selection of single malts, and bottles of niche boozes from around the globe (Two Dogs! Zwack Unicum!), but it wasn’t particularly conducive to meeting people. Or maybe I was just shattered by this point. So I stumbled back to the ‘guesthouse’, picking up some random (delicious) skewer from a street vendor made out of fuck-knows-what on the way, noted the prostitutes hanging out by the lift of doom, found my room and slept an unlikelily deep sleep on my bed of solid concrete.

Gimme shelter

January 14, 2010

Time is absolutely ripping by. And although I’m organised in some ways (I have my tickets sorted to see AC/DC and Faith No More, for example), in others I’ve been woefully lacking.

That I don’t know where I’m gonna be staying on any given night is probably the principal area of disorganisation.

And so to CouchSurfing.org. And then over to you. It’s time to get interactive. I have two nights in Hong Kong… Who should I stay with?

Well, Pepe Smith looks like a nice chap. He’s handsome, and plays guitar. Handsomer than me in fact, and probably plays guitar better – good thing I’m not an alpha male. Cons: He doesn’t like horror movies, and he likes “learning about the Cosmos”. Pro: He saw a monkey on his balcony. Definitely a hot contender.

Or Jenny Hui? Con: Hasn’t written anything about herself. Pro: Hot. Not that that’s important, obv.

Come on peeps – get involved! Tell me who I should stay with. This is where the blog becomes ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’!

I had this one, actually. Nasty piece of work. I think they all were. Perhaps turning this blog into a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ is a grave mistake?

And so it (re)begins

January 9, 2010

So I’m going back to New Zealand this month. I’m stopping over for a couple of nights in Hong Kong, and then on the 29th my second great antipodean adventure will begin. This chapter will then end when I fly home on the 10th of March.

Some of you may have read the first (currently unfinished) chronicle. If you haven’t, there’s a link to it over there on the right. Read it! Or don’t. I’m not going to order you about.

I’ll go into a bit more detail about the wherefores of this trip shortly. In the meantime, I thought I’d mention that I was speaking to my friend Bub on the phone earlier, and he reminded me of the classic arcade game The New Zealand Story:

The New Zealand Story cover

I hadn’t thought about this in years. This reminder presented the problem that I was more likely to download and play the game all afternoon, rather than do stuff I actually have to do before my trip. Like sort out my flat to (hopefully) sub-let, work out what to pack and wotnot. But I guess playing a Japanese game about a yellow kiwi rescuing his kidnapped mates from a massive leopard seal who intends to sell them is a legitimate use of my time, as that’s practically a blueprint for my impending tour.

So, a question entirely unrelated to the oncoming adventure: what’s your favourite old-school computer game?

(We’ll get onto the actual plot soon, promise).

180 Degrees self portrait