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Diary of a Cranky Traveler, Part 2: Hong Kong

Diary of a Cranky Traveler, Part 2: Hong Kong

Dec 3rd, 2010, 09:40 PM
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Diary of a Cranky Traveler, Part 2: Hong Kong

Continuing from Hong Kong. (The earlier installment of this drivel, which carps about Japan and a little bit of Hong Kong, is at http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...-and-light.cfm).

If you have never been to Asia, there's just no way to be ready for what you're stepping into.My first trip to Hong Kong, or Asia for that matter, was in 1990. My Former Beloved and I flew first to Hong Kong, then on to Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok. Information was mainly from guidebooks, maybe a speck or two from rec.travel, and from reading Noble House. It seemed like Hong Kong would be magical, and it lived up to its promise.

Hong Kong looks different now: the skyscrapers of 1990 have been dwarfed by new ones, complexes of a dozen 40-story apartment buildings have sprouted up all over, the airport is modern and efficient instead of cramped and lots of fun, and the ubiquitous cigarette smoke has been replaced by ubiquitous haze. But all of that is superficial, and, at its core, Hong Kong is still as special a place as you can ever hope to visit. The special part of the city isn't what you see in your first day or two along the main shopping streets in TST and Central. Instead, the allure is when you turn down the little alley that couldn't possibly go anywhere, the alley that's not on the tourist map, the alley that's filled with dark corners and amazing sights and smells. Where you're perfectly safe, yet you know that a dozen unseen eyes are watching your every move. This is the Hong Kong where you want to wander, where you want to stop for a bowl of noodles or some dim sum. This is what you'll remember forever.

So I had a good day today, as you might have figured out. A fitting at LeeBaron, then stopped at my old fried Raymond at Tai Kwong Optical (28 Mody Road) to get a new pair of progressive lens glasses, then wandered the back streets of TST and TST East. Stopped to pick up some take-away dim sum at a tiny shop -- shrimp dumplings were exceptional, char sui bao was ok, and steamed beef was pretty good. Looking forward to a restorative nap.

I did bring my camcorder along (mostly for the lights festival in Lyon), and I took a little video The View from the Promenade. The thing about the harbour view is that it's not just a view: it's a city that constantly in motion. I can't do any video editing on this notebook I'm using, and the handheld camcorder gets a bit shaky, but here's the link:

http://vimeo.com/17459078

(Hint: the video can be very slow if you try to stream it. Seems to work better if you open the link, then pause the video and let it download for a few minutes before you play it.)
DonTopaz is offline  
Dec 4th, 2010, 03:11 AM
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Good video Don. Of course Linda's fav TST view is of the LG sign. Will try your tailor next time we are in HK as am of the same spherical shape as you describe. Am now ensconsed in the Hyatt Kyoto with all the pampering a diamond is worth,lol and enjoying all of your reports. Encore!

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Dec 4th, 2010, 05:41 AM
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Wonderful photos on the previous report!! Thanks for bringing back some HK memories.
indianapearl is offline  
Dec 4th, 2010, 07:18 AM
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He's cranky at home. No surprise he is cranky abroad. Timely report, no penalty.
Gpanda is offline  
Dec 4th, 2010, 08:13 AM
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Newton Corner! Paramount Theater. The smoke shop around the corner with the guy who ran numbers/football cards.

Begging your pardon O Cranky One...that guy you speak of was none other than my esteemed Uncle Harry ("The Slip")Murgatroyd. He eventually did 5 to 10 at Walpole until he was "shivved" by an unhappy former patron.

Getting back to Hong Kong. No place quite like it. I'm sure you'll bring back fond memories for all of us who have had the joy of visiting. By the way, for something slightly different, there's a Filipino resto called "Cinta J" in Wan Chai that's a nice experience. I went to the original but they have since moved to a Jaffe Street address I've been told.
If you have a chance, take the hydrofoil to Macau for an interesting day..just don't lose your shirt at the slots. Good rendition of Portuguese specialties at the venerable Hotel Lisboa. Telling you to have fun is not necessary...you will!

stu
tower is offline  
Dec 4th, 2010, 08:18 AM
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Gpanda, yes, but Rizz is in the process of exporting crankiness! Shouldn't he at least be taxed for that???

Stu, unless your uncle served time in a facility in Billerica, Rizz would have no acquaintance with him.

BC
bookchick is offline  
Dec 4th, 2010, 10:35 AM
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why was everyone speaking chinese??

did you see that person watching you from the china bank building.... you may have trouble leaving from the airport..

those holiday lights on the bldgs. never cease to amaze me...

your descpription of HK is right on....i need to get back there...
rhkkmk is offline  
Dec 4th, 2010, 10:54 AM
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Oh, rizzuto, now I know who you are on FT.
rkkwan is offline  
Dec 4th, 2010, 12:02 PM
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BC:
facility in Billerica

Rizz's halfway house IS the facility in Billerica.

stu
tower is offline  
Dec 4th, 2010, 01:20 PM
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lol, thanks Don!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Dec 4th, 2010, 02:13 PM
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cw
 
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Nice video and photos. Hong Kong beckons.

I don't think you're a "cranky" traveler anymore though.
cw is offline  
Dec 4th, 2010, 02:43 PM
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rhk: everyone was speaking chinese because they were tourists from Holland

rkkwan: for a while my Fodor's profile said "I'm wideman on FlyerTalk," but that tag got lost somehow a few years ago. I'd have used the same name, but wideman was taken when I registered here.

stu: everyone has one of those uncles. Mac's was a special place. The guy who ran it (and who was not named Mac) had a cousin named Lovey, who watched the shop when needed. Lovey's permanent address was a Chevrolet Nova that was always -- always -- parked behind Mac's, and all of his (many) belongings were inside. Inside the Nova, that is.

Sun is rising, looks like a beautiful day in Hong Kong. Leaving my Room With a View later today for 2 nights in Causeway Bay. Time to hunt for breakfast.

And some crankiness, for Celeste's benefit: the touchpad on this notebook is starting to drive me bananas. If I so much as graze it with my palm as I type, everything gets screwed up, as the cursor goes into overdrive and starts inserting my typing someplace it doesn't belong. I can disable the touchpad easily on my laptop, but not on this notebook. Bunch of nazi [email protected] who made this thing. Helps a little bit if a lay a credit card across the top of the pad, but still.
DonTopaz is offline  
Dec 4th, 2010, 05:02 PM
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A joy of modern travel: getting up on Sunday morning, popping out to a local shop to pick up some hot dim sum, making a second stop at Starbucks (there are 4 on every block here), then heading back to my room embarrassingly gaudy suite to down that harvest while listening to a live broadcast of Prairie Home Companion from NYC.
DonTopaz is offline  
Dec 4th, 2010, 05:11 PM
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Rizz, in my experiences, most things work better when you lay a credit card across the top of it. Take Bob. But I digress...

BC
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Dec 6th, 2010, 02:16 AM
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The harvest is in. I picked up my new pair of specs (Shanghai Tang frames, I hope you're impressed, though I can't imagine why) yesterday. And when I got back to the room this afternoon, a bagfull of new shirts and slacks were waiting for me. This is one of the odd things about going to Hong Kong toward the end of a trip. For a week and a half I've been wearing more or less the same clothes every 3rd day, and now I've got an absolute glut of things to choose from.

I'm in the Crowne Plaza in Causeway Bay, and I don't think I'd recommend the place. There's nothing seriously wrong with it, it's just a collection of little things that, for me, make it no better than a so-so choice. The location is a bit weird: just a little too removed from the maelstrom of Causeway Bay. That, and too few elevators (3, for 20+ floors), mediocre toiletries, slow internet, and a bunch of other minor annoyances. Maybe if the place were branded as a Holiday Inn instead of Crowne Plaza -- CPs are supposed to be a bit higher quality.

Had a nice dinner last night at Nam Ha across the street. It's a Singapore/Malaysian joint, specializing in Hainanese Chicken. Which I did not get. But I did get a very nice beef satay, and a beef brisket curry with fried noodles. Very casual restaurant, menu in English, and a good value.

I'd wanted to try a char siu joint that Cicerone had recommended, West Villa, which is nearby. But I got intimidated by a line to get in, not much indication of English menus, and a sense that a solo diner would not do well there. But I did get a very nice, very lean (which I prefer), char siu at a street stand. Things do work out.

Today's adventure was a trip to Macau, where I hadn't been before. I wanted to see the city, and I also wanted to lose some money at a casino. The ferry trip over was easy, and I took a taxi to the old town. Macau is eye-opening, unlike anything I might have expected. First off, it struck me as being more European-looking than anywhere else I'd been in Asia -- the look of the shops, of the streets, of the buildings. Wandered over to the ruins of St Paul's (that's the place you always see in pictures) where a million tourists were hanging out, than found a taxi to head over to the Other Side of Town. The side of town that is vulgar beyond words and where most people are headed when they travel from Hong Kong (or elsewhere) to Macau.

The most expensive movie I ever saw was called La Baie des Anges (The Bay of Angels), a French film noir from the early 60s starring Jeanne Moreau. It's about a young accountant from Paris who goes to Nice for a holiday and runs into the cougar-y Moreau at the Nice casino roulette table. Moreau has run out of money and the Paris guy is down to his last franc, and Moreau tells him to play 17. 17 comes up, of course, and the two of them proceed to win leventy-seven times in a row, buy a convertible and go to Monte Carlo, lose everything at the roulette table there, and on and on and on. Well I got hypnotized by the roulette wheel, and it wasn't long before I'd planned a trip to Nice to go to the casino. I was going to win a gazillion dollars, but be smart enough to quit while ahead. Alas, when I got to Nice I found that the casino had been closed -- a few too many people associated with the place had washed up on the beach in Nice. Still, I've always enjoyed a roulette wheel ever since.

Which brings us to Macau. Now I'm not going to bother telling you if I won or lost money, but I will tell you this absolute truth: Never, ever, ever believe someone who tells you how much money they won (or lost) at poker / at the racetrack / at the casino. Never. It will not be the truth. Human beings are hard-wired to not be forthright about gambling. And they aren't necessarily lying -- lying means that they're intentionally being untruthful, and sometimes they just haven't figured it out for themselves correctly. You know, they might recall the $375 that they won, but the $466 in bets that they made to reap the $375 might be overlooked.

So I had a good time there. I did go to Wynn's casino, as they have a so-called smoke-free area (well, it's adjacent to a smoking area, with no wall between the two), but it's still not bad. I won about $50 I think.

Cheers,
DonTopaz is offline  
Dec 6th, 2010, 04:20 AM
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Well Macau was under a Portugese flag for eons so that is why the Euro look. And don't know about everyone else but I do know how much I win or loose when at the tables. My theory is if you can't take all the money you have to gamble and be willing to throw it all out the window of the highest floor of the casino into the wind then don't gamble, period. Yes I mostly loose like everyone else but do win every so often and I can tell you to the penny(well maybe the dollar) how much was won or loss that day.

Glad you are having a good time. How much is a shirt from your tailor cost if you don't mind? With the similar spherical shape it sounds like a good idea to use a tailor the next time in HK.

Have you ever tried the baked char siu bao rather than the steamed one? The baked ones are so much better imho. Loving all the detail, keep it rolling.

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Dec 6th, 2010, 06:36 AM
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how much did it cost you to win the $50---$400-500?
rhkkmk is offline  
Dec 6th, 2010, 12:31 PM
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Enjoying your report!
sassy_cat is offline  
Dec 6th, 2010, 05:08 PM
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Internet connection at the Crowne Plaza is grim: nothing last night, and slower than a whore's funeral this morning. (Am I allowed to say that?)

HT, roughly $HK500 for shirts after he's done giving you the obligatory discount. I'm pleased with the fit, and I'm especially pleased with the fit of the slacks (about $HK800). I'll bargain with about anyone in HK except for tailors.

Yes, it's very much the Portuguese influence and history that sets Macau apart -- definitely fun to see signs in Portuguese. [What are the only flightless European birds? Portuguese.]

And you're 100% right about the $$. For me, the whole fun is the playing, watching the little ball go round and round and round and round and round, thinking about how I'd spend the gazillion dollars. It's probably more fun to lose than to win. If you win, what do you do? If you keep playing, you'll wind up busted. If you quit, you got nothing to do. But if you lose, then you can keep playing till your money runs out.

I am sure that Bob the Banker enjoys that logic.

The streets of Causeway Bay were jam-packed with people last night, as they are pretty much every night. Hong Kong is a place that 97% people, 86% neon, 117% shopping, and 66% food. It's true. Mathematically, the numbers don't seem to add up, but only if you've never been here.

Off to the airport in a few hours, long flight to Heathrow for an overnight before Weds am flight to Lyon.

Cheers,
DonTopaz is offline  

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