Category Archives: Hong Kong

Macau

I went to Macau last Saturday in order to get my visa stamped. I was pretty curious as to what it was going to be like as supposedly more money is gambled here than either Las Vegas or Atlantic city.

The ride over

I took a “jet boat” over which was actually very comfortable. It felt like a plane ride (they even had seat belts) and I got to see Hong Kong from the water as well as modern fishing boats, cruise ships, guys in what looked like row boats with a motor and even old school junks. I got to the ferry terminal and about 15 people asked me if I wanted to ride in a rickshaw which I politely declined even though it got somewhat more frustrating. My plan was to check out the casinos and I thought about walking over until I realized I didn’t know where the ferry was on the map. Kind tough to navigate where you don’t even know where you are.

As I was walking around trying to figure out where I was, I noticed the casino bus stop so I hopped on with a bunch of people and we headed on over. When the bus stopped, people RAN off the bus to get to the gambling.

The casinos

I started at the Wynn and it looked and felt just like a casino in Vegas. The biggest surprises were that a) it was maybe 25% full and b) people seemed pretty reserved. At a casino in the US on a Saturday the place is usually packed and people are going nuts. Here it was exactly the opposite. Even roulette, which is generally pretty good at drawing people together, in Macau is all mechanized so there isn’t even a dealer. People just sit at a screen to make their bets even though there is a wheel. Pictures were not allowed so you’ll just have to trust my description. I did end up having lunch at one of the restaurants which was delicious.

Walking around

Macau looks and feels a lot like what I would imagine Portugal to have looked like in the 1970s. There is a mix of retro 70s style building but also some obviously brand new construction. Like Hong Kong though, it’s built on a hill so there is plenty of steep streets. In my walking around I ended up in what I guessed was some kind of park so I decided to walk around it to get back to the ferry. There were all these jungle gym type machines which I at first thought were for kids till I realized there were exercise machines. They had an elliptical machine, a leg press, that gazelle thing Tony Little is always trying to sell and most of them are based on your body weight. These things were everywhere.

Overall, Macau was pretty nice but I don’t think I will go back during the day as they say the nightlife can be pretty cool.

It was also about 95 and 80% humidity the whole time so I was pretty bushed by the time I got back to the ferry. It a pretty uneventful ride back to HK so I took a nap when I got back (exciting I know).

End of week one

Phew, one week in here in the Far East.

Architecture

They build in one direction here and that’s UP! I forget were I read it but apparently most of the flat land in Hong Kong is within ~1.5km of the beach. That means that Hong Kong has more people living above the 20th floor than any other city in the world! One of the side effects of this is that you see a lot of skyscrapers built on the sides of hills. Usually in the US we tend to think of flat=skyscraper (e.g. NY, LA, Chicago) and hills = houses (e.g. Colorado) but here they manage to put both together. You can see this very clearly from one of the windows at work so I will try to get a picture to illustrate.

There is also a crazy mix of brand new, ultra modern buildings right next to stereotypical “chinese back alleys” with wires and uneven bricked pavement. I walked home from work for the first time on Friday and it was like traveling back in time as work is in “Central” which is mostly sky scrapers and I live in Sheung Wan which is a little more industrialized. I also passed Long Kwai Fong which is the “expat drinking zone” as well. I originally thought that it would be this huge area but it’s actually about a block square.

On the way home I even cut through what I would consider back alleys and there was a whole street diner in one of them with people playing cards. Don’t think I will be eating there though as they had all of the food ingredients just out on a table.

Cabs

These guys deserve their own section.

Here are some of my more memorable moments:
Cabbie: Where you go?
Me: Sheung Wan MTR
Cabbie: Where you go??
Me: Sheung Wan MTR
Cabbie: Ok.
Me: Can you drop me off by the Wing On department store?
Cabbie: You get off where I take you!!

Cabbie: Where you go?
Me: Sheung Wan MTR
Cabbie: Central or other <chinese>?
Me: Uh, either. Both?
Cabbie: <chinese> Both <chinese> HA HA HA

Other than that, they are pretty nice. Taking your bird costs extra. Will post a photo.

Food

While I generally am a fan of chinese food, I wasn’t too thrilled about eating it everyday. Jet lag messed up regular eating cycle so the first couple nights I ate chips and salsa (thanks Meggs and Tony) because I was too tired to go out. At lunch I’ve been basically eating Pret A Manger which is weird because here they come in half sandwich boxes instead of what I would consider the regular full sandwich box. For dinner I’ve started eating at this cafe right around the corner. It’s petty good but I’ve noticed you have to ask for napkins since they aren’t at the table and they don’t come with the meal. I guess Hong Kongers aren’t as messy as I am when they eat. Haven’t really eaten anything “wild” yet but I guess that may be pretty soon. Ever since I’ve heard about chicken’s feet, I’ve wanted to try them out.

Street Life/Walking around

People here seem pretty serious when they walk around. More so than I would say in London or New York although I’ve really only walked around by work and where I live. Coming home on Friday people seemed a little more relaxed (maybe because of the weekend).

As I mentioned before, I feel a little taller than normal but sometimes I feel like a giant. On the elevator the other day, five women got on with me and none of them was taller than five feet. My friend Brendan said they must have thought I was godzilla so I should make sure not to step on any buildings.

Some of the travel websites say westerners complain about people being rude and pushing and shoving but I haven’t really noticed that. If anything, everyone seems very polite. One thing that is strange is walking in a crowded place. It feels like people seem to be a little less open to changing their route in crowded areas (e.g. the lobby at work) than they would in the US.

That’s it for now. Went to Macao today to get my visa stamped but will save that for later.

First impressions

Figured the best way to both keep a record of my trip to Hong Kong and let everyone know what I was up to was to start a blog. I’m kind of new to blogging in general so we’ll see how it works out.

I decided to break down my impressions into a more chronological view:

The Flight

I haven’t flown business class in about 15 years but let me tell you this: it rocks! I got to hang out at the British airways lounge which meant all the milano cookies I could eat. They even had some mini-sandwiches and free wifi which was pretty cool.

I noticed two things when I got on the plane:

  1. The seat was it’s own little pod
  2. The flight attendants were super nice

The seat is the new(er) flat style which means it goes all the way down flat. They even give you a duvet and a full size pillow so it even feels like you’re in a bed. At one point they gave me a menu and they had a couple different options for starters so I was thinking “hmmm, which one should I get”. Once the meal came out, I realized you got ALL of the starters. They also plied chocolate non-stop to the point that the one flight attendant told me “take as many chocolates as you like”. For dinner, they actually didn’t have the entree I wanted so for breakfast they came to me first to make sure it didn’t happen again. Pretty good customer service.

The entertainment system was really cool. The screen was huge and in HD so I watched Iron Man and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. At one point the whole system froze so the attendant restarted it and for the dorky among you, it runs on Red Hat.

Hong Kong Airport and trip to Central

I usually end up having trouble with mass transit the first time I go somewhere new. This usually involves getting on the wrong train/bus, going east when I wanted to go west etc but this time I had very few problems. Getting on the airport express train was super easy and they even had a little map with dots that lighted up as you got closer to the stations so you knew that you were 1/2 way, 3/4 of the way and so on. When I got to the Central station, I must have totally looked like a tourist because one of the ladies at the exit gates waved me into the right one.

As I moved down to the subway, one thing kept annoying the hell out of me. They have these little ridges on the floor to help people get around I imagine. This is great when you’re walking around but rolling luggage over it can get pretty frustrating.

I eventually made it to the ticket machine and it has a little map that lets you just touch where you are going. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any change so I asked some random guy if he had any change. He did and so we swapped bills but then he looked in his wallet and realized “Hey, now I don’t have any change” so we had to swap back. Grrrr. So, I went all the way back up in the elevator to get change. After that though, it was pretty straightforward.

One other weird thing. when I left JFK they had a Lancome ad with Anne Hathaway. When I got to the HK airport, they had the same ad! I guess that’s globalization.

People

One of my first thoughts was that there were a lot of people. Everywhere. I also realized that I wasn’t the tallest person or even really that much above the average. In New York average height is generally just under my eye level but here I would say it’s more around my chin.

This was also the first time that I really felt like a minority. I don’t think I’ve ever really felt that way even when I went to Africa or the Carribean. They say that only .5% of the population is Caucasian but most people don’t seem to even notice. I did get a couple curious looks now and then but nothing that made me feel out of place.