Hong Kong, Day 2.5: Houston to Beijing to Hong Kong to Kowloon to…

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Since my first post, I’ve made it to Hong Kong, been hit by a tidal wave of culture shock, and had a whirlwind day exploring HK, including riding in a rebellious elevator, going on a crazy hunt for a bookstore, experiencing the incredible speed of an HK fast food restaurant, and getting my first coffee in about 36 hours. Wow.

Where I’ve Been

After the eternal flight to Bejing, I disembarked the plane at 4 am, desperately hoping for coffee so that I could try to time my sleeping with HK hours. A lady ahead of me was gesturing with a Starbucks coffee cup, which meant that there was one open, which meant that I went there immediately. Apparently, you have to order your coffee ‘Americano’ if you want just plain old coffee.

The flight to HK was three hours, and then I exchanged money and caught the double-decker bus to the city. At first, the ride consisted of some cool island mountains. And then we rounded the corner to see the city proper. The sheer SCALE of everything is mind-boggling. There are buildings here that have about three times more people living in them than the average city in Arkansas. There were acres and acres of shipping containers that looked like Legos. When you drive over a suspension bridge in a double-decker bus and see a fishing fleet in the harbor with a backdrop of hundreds of skyscrapers with airliners flying overhead… you know this is a hopping place.

I finally made it to my hostel, which is inside one of the tall buildings, like most businesses are. You can’t really tell what’s inside from the street; you have to go in and start exploring.

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But the Moment Hostel is great… I have a room (and two roommates) and a bathroom (basically a closet/toilet/shower) and a kitchen.

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After a nap, I met up with Joe, who it was great to see after about 5 years since college. We used an Asian alternative of Groupon to grab pizza and beer, and then another to get some good cali-mex food (and the restaurant called Cali-Mex, funny enough). He also helped me get my Octopus card for the metro, which is super easy to use, if a litte packed at sometimes. I don’t have to imagine how sardines feel.

After much-needed rest, my roomate Thomas and I went to the Austrailian Dairy Company to grab some HK-style fast food (scrambled eggs with macaroni, ham, and steamed milk).

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After exploring a park and a mall, I found a bookstore, a bakery, another bookstore, two night markets, and the Symphony of lights.

So those are the facts, but they’re made all the more interesting because of a little thing that I like to call…

Culture Shock

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Knowing a culture will be different and then experiencing the true degree of that difference are two separate things. In the past 30 hours, I have been asked:

  • Why I am allowed to have such a long vacation
  • Why I say good morning to store clerks
  • If foreigners are allowed to rent shotguns when they visit America
  • Who I’m voting for this November (I knew that one was coming)

I have been told:

  • That I am very young to have had so many jobs (a total of 3)
  • That America is full of people with dreams and goals (unlike Singapore; a native’s opinion)
  • That the first presidential debate is going viral on Facebook (and that it’s hilarious)

I have learned:

  • That it’s totally fine to drink in public here. You buy a beer at 7-11, and they’ll offer to open it for you.
  • To stand completely against the right side of the escalator to let other people run up the left
  • To eat very quickly at HK fast food restaurants – waiting in line for 15 minutes and then having only 5 minutes to eat is normal
  • To sit at a table with strangers – in certain kinds of restaurants, space is a premium, and every seat gets filled
  • To ignore the many Middle-eastern men on the street corners offering me tailored suits
  • That there is no such thing as personal space in HK
  • To walk on the left side – it’s the rule of thumb, especially in the less-touristy areas; that’s the way they drive as well
  • You have to drink water from a purifier or after you’ve boiled it; tap water isn’t safe
  • That the concepts of “quiet” and “alone” don’t really exist in HK

So far, Hong Kong is a place in motion; you don’t meander or take the scenic route. You’re either heading somewhere and have a clear destination to reach, or you’re sitting in a park, in a random, specifically-anti rush cafe, or in a tiny hidden bookstore, and you’re not going anywhere. It’s a very interesting dynamic, and it’s pretty exhausting, in a good way.

Interesting Stops

A few of the cool places from today include:

The Plum Cultivator

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A hidden second-hand bookstore that I spent half an hour trying to find — in the wrong building. Google has been corrected now. After finally finding the store, I also found some awesome sci-fi, philosophy, and art books. It was the first really quiet place I found, so I took my time there.

Kubrick

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This cafe/bookstore is intentionally anti-rush: “Let’s take a break,” says the door, and inside, they make you take one — there is no wifi or decaf coffee. Read a book or get out. Espresso is bitter and delicious.

The Ladies Market and the Temple Street Night Market

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These two markets come alive at night with vendors selling everything from quirky USB drives to purses to drones to jewelry. I just roamed tonight, but I found some crazy stuff. Get ready, family; I’m bringing some crazy stuff back for you.

The Symphony of Lights

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At 8 o’clock every evening, about 20 skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island (across the bay from Kowloon,my part of town) puts on a laser and light show, and they play music on the Kowloon side. The show is followed by lots of people viewing the skyline with a backdrop of karaoke performers in between the HK museum buildings with their funky architecture.

What’s Next

Tomorrow entails taking the ferry to Hong Kong Island (which is the true shopping district) exploring more food, and going up to the Peak to watch the sun set over Hong Kong. And who knows what else in between.

Walking everywhere and just experiencing the compact, crowded environment is fascinating, but I also really need sleep now. So hopefully this catches us up with the trip so far, and I will post again soon.

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