Capn Design

Far East 2005

I'm Back

Posted November 1, 2005

Wow, that trip was fantastic. Unlike my Italy and France trip from last year, I found Hong Kong and Japan to feel much homey-er. That's probably because they are both large cities like NYC, but this feeling led me to believe I could come back there a number of times and still enjoy myself. That's true more for Tokyo, but I really loved them both.

As you've probably noticed, I've written a travelogue for my Hong Kong adventures and I plan to do the same this week for Japan. I'll also write a more condensed version for those who don't feel like reading about every little thing I did.

In the meantime, you can view my flickr set for Hong Kong or Tokyo. Tokyo is not yet complete and Kyoto is still on the way (expect them tomorrow).

As of right now, I feel like I'm over my jet lag. On Saturday night I was a mess; on Sunday football distracted me from any ill effectss; and yesterday I was worthless again. Finally, today, I felt whole again. Including the switch to standard time, it was a 14 hour difference. I left Tokyo at 4:55pm and arrived at 4:15pm, 40 minutes back in time. Crazy.

Now, I'm getting everything back in gear at work and trying to get back in the groove at home. I feel like I have a million movies to see and a stack of twenty magazines to read. Now it's time to fall asleep watching Infernal Affairs, reliving my Hong Kong days.

Hong Kong Part 3

Posted October 28, 2005

Having hit all the major areas in HK, we decided to venture elsewhere. There are a number of outlying islands, most notably the country of Macau, but we decided to visit Cheung Chau. There are about 20,000 residents, but it is less touristy than the others and is known for its cheap, high-quality seafood. Oh, and it has a few nice beaches which always helps.

The ferry ride was painless and we disembarked ready for a tasty lunch. Most of the good restaurants were along the coast, so we walked up and down the stretch looking for something interesting. We ended up having a cheap dim sum lunch, which was good but nothing spectacular. The only disappointing dish was the salt and pepper squid; too chewy.

Sated, we made our way to the beach. Being able to think clearly again, I noticed that the island was covered with cyclists, which made sense since cars aren't allowed. It could be somewhat chaotic, but it's far less stressful than car traffic. Also of interest is that almost no one in Hong Kong or Japan wear helmets when they ride. Are we smart or paranoid? I say smart, but only because U.S. drivers are awful.

The beach was nearly deserted, aside from the lifeguards. It made for a peaceful afternoon in the warm water and warmer sun. Once we felt relaxed we spent a couple hours hiking around the island. The views were beautiful and the entire walk was quite peaceful.

For dinner we returned to restaurant row and sat down at the restaurant with the nicest host. Looking to try a bunch of things, we order five dishes to share. It was a little more than we needed, but it was fun to try things out even if the food was barely average. That was the most disappointing aspect of the trip. We came for good seafood but it ended up being lackluster.

Once back in the city we decided to catch a late showing of Park Chan-Wook's latest film, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. It was spectacular and I made a fan out of Robbie. It was wasn't as good as Oldboy, but I was very happy.

On my last real day in Hong Kong I started slow since I needed to do some laundry. We were considering going to Macau, but my feet couldn't take another full day of walking, so we took it easy. We went to a great food court at a mall in Admirality, just east of Central, and then took in a Hong Kong movie called Election. It was a nice wrap-up of the trip as I got to see a number of neighborhoods in HK on the big screen. Unfortunately, this slightly above-average Gangster film had arguably the worst ending in film history. I will be happy to recount the details for anyone who might be curious.

For the movie trifecta, Robbie took me to Chungking Mansions, where parts of Chungking Express was filmed. I saw only a mild resemblance as tourists swarmed around me but it was a good time-killer before dinner. My last meal was at Yung Kee, one of the best known Cantonese restaurants in the city. Robbie tried their 1,000 Year Old Egg, which looked gross but Robbie gave it an "eh." The rest of the food was quite tasty. This fancy meal was our most expensive, at barely $30 a person.

At night we packed up in preparation for Japan. HK was a blast and I'm glad I went, but I was ready for the intensity of Tokyo.

Hong Kong Part 2

Posted October 27, 2005

I realize I'm late writing this, but I'm going to catch you up on last week's Hong Kong adventures while riding the bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo (note: not all Japanese cities are anagrams of Tokyo).

On Tuesday morning Robbie and I started in Mong Kok, an area in Kowloon. I didn't explain yesterday that Hong Kong is comprised of two main areas, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, which is just north of the island. Clearly stereotyping, HK Island's Central is primarily business-driven while Kowloon is more about shopping. That being said, Hong Kong is generally a shopping mecca. Don't expect to hit up a lot of, if any, museums when you visit. Aside from taking in the flavor of the city, the most culture I had was seeing a couple movies. But I digress.

While in Mong Kok, we walked from shop to shop, focusing mostly on the gaming and camera stores. I didn't really buy anything, but canvasing the area proved entertaining. My other success of the afternoon was eating fried rice for lunch. It was incredibly light, nothing like chinese food in the States. Stupid Americans always seem to be bastardizing good food. Our travels on foot also took us through Jordan and Yau Ma Tei, the neighborhoods between Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui.

After Robbie left me for class, I boarded the tram for the Peak. The Peak is, as you might guess, a large hill that overlooks the city. Unfortunately the viewing tower was closed along with the restaurant I planned to visit, but I made the best of it and took some photos before heading down.

When I disembarked in Central, I found a restaurant called Noodle Box that serverd cheap noodle dishes from around Asia. This reminds me how food in HK was generally very cheap, especially compared to prices I'm now paying in Japan. A decent lunch could be $5 American. Aside from my dorm costs, I spent around $250 during the entire week.

After dinner I met Robbie back home and we finished the day with awful reruns on the english language channel, Star. Have you heard of the show "Welcome to the Kelleys?" I hadn't either. Although Star has a few big-name shows, most of them are the cheapest syndication available. What's worse is they play the commercials for these shows over and over and over. It was painful.

Wednesday was devoted to areas east of Central, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay. Keith had given me the heads up on his favorite computer and gaming malls. It was store after store of people selling memory cards, digital cameras, laptops and video games. Amazing for price shopping and utterly mesmerizing. There were only a few places to get bootleg software and they were going for HK$30 per CD or HK$50 per DVD. I didn't get anything, but it would have been a nice price cut for Adobe's Creative Suite.

Once again, Robbie had class and I was left to wander alone. I found my way to Times Square Mall, which was huge -- nine floors of shops plus a floor of restaurants. Robbie warned me, but it finally clicked that Hong Kong is virtually all shopping and eating and there are about a bajillion malls.

After resting my feet for a bit, I walked down to the most sacred place of worship in Hong Kong: Happy Valley Race Course. Hong Kongers lover horse racing and this is their mecca. The place was crowded and I wasted no time placing a bet. The local favorite is a quintella, which is where you pick the first and second horse but not the specific order. I studied the odds and chose two horses. Beginner's luck turned my HK$20 into HK$238. I proceeded to lose every other race, but I still came out ahead.

The next installment will cover my last two days in Hong Kong. It'll be shorter, I promise.

Hong Kong Part 1

Posted October 17, 2005

Before I start, you can find a set of photos from my Asian travels in this flickr set.

Nineteeen hours of flying is a long time. It is especially long when you're in a middle seat in row 54 next to a toddler. It wasn't quite as bad as you're imagining, but it was far from comfortable.

Despite my auspicious beginnings, I made it to Hong Kong at 6:45pm Sunday, after waking up to leave for the airport at 6am on Saturday. After grabbing my bags I found my way to the Airport Express, a train that takes you to Hong Kong Central in 23 minutes. It also plays U.S. movie trailers on the seatbacks.

Robbie, my host, picked me up at the metro station and we boarded a double-decker bus for his dorm. The room is as good as any average hotel, complete with slippers. Although the jet lag was starting to take hold, we ventured into Kennedy Town to grab some dinner. The food was fine, except for the pigeon. Yes, we decided to try pigeon. It was undoubtedly a mistake, mostly because it was served in a wine sauce that reminded me of biology class and the pigeon's head was staring right at me. Still, I'm glad I gave it a shot.

After a slow start, we found our way into Central on a hunt for Robbie's favorite dim sum spot. I was nervous, due to the previous night's incident, but it went without issue. The food was delicious, especially the steamed pork buns. More dim sum shall be consumed on this trip.

Robbie left for class soon after lunch and I meandered around Central for an hour, then took the Star Ferry across the water to Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon (Kowloon is a part of Hong Kong, but not on Hong Kong Island). TST is known for being a shopping mecca, so I spent about four and half hours pooping in and out of shops.

I was immediately facinated with all the game halls. Everytime I crossed one I ventured in. Hong Kongers love gundam, fighting games, racing games, horse-racing games and DDR-clones. The only game I really played was a shooter called Ghost Mission. It was amazing, but the sight was off, which proved infuriating.

I was terribly confused by a game called "The Typing of the Dead," that appeared to be "House of the Dead," but with a keyboard instead of a gun and the avatar also carried a keyboard. Very odd.

The views from the Star Ferry on the way back to Central were wonderful, even if it was quite hazy. I'm hoping to go again on a clear night. Since I didn't want to burn out on Chinese food, I looked up a Vietnamese place. When I walked in, I was the only one there and they were playing a Britney Spears CD. No a song, but an entire CD. Thankfully the food was tasty, albeit spicy.

We ended the day grabbing a pizza for Robbie at a place called Pizza Box. It tasted like Domino's, but I still felt obligated to take a bunch of photos for Adam.

Today (Tuesday) we're heading back to Kowloon and then we'll be taking the tram to the top of the Peak. I'll post another update in the next few days.

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