Deja vu?

Sat at T5 sipping a beer whilst waiting for gate to open for flight to HK. Hate night flights!

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Bangkok Jan 2011

Because I’m so mañana mañana, this is why it’s taken me 3 months to post this up.  I’ve got a rake of photos to sort out as well, which is another excuse for me not to update this blog. But be depressed no more! Rejoice in your office/lounge/bathroom, here’s an update for you!

In January I went to Bangkok for a weekend with Charlotte. One of the advantages of living in Hong Kong is you’ve got hot weather on your doorstep. It was 30c+ everyday (HK was around 15 in comparison), and this was only a two hour flight away. Combine that with the excellent check-in system at HK airport (from closing the front door, to be being checked in and through security can take as little an hour), means you can be in a tropical climate in only 3 to 4 hrs. If you’ve never been to Thailand, they say the people are really friendly, “The land of smiles”. Yes, that is true (more on that later in my Phuket update), but in Bangkok, I got the distinct impression there were a lot of people out to con you (come to my jewellery shop kinda thing after they they’d spent 10 mins wasting your time with nonsensical directions).

So, what did we do? Had a boat-tour for the afternoon around the canals, explored the town, visited the Grand Palace and Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn), ate food, drank alcohol, and then flew back home. Here are some photos:

Outside Wat Arun temple -

Ok, first photo. Myself outside of Wat Arun temple. Mainly as proof that I’ve visited here, and because I don’t really have any photos of me anywhere. And I know why now I’ve looked at it, it’s pretty rubbish, it’s not as if I’ll be putting this up on display on the mantelpiece or anything is it?

The boat tour. We hired one of these for the afternoon, and it was worth it. We had a guided tour around all the canals (there’s more canals here than Venice in terms of total length). The (driver?) took us to all the local sightseeing places, although as he didn’t speak any English, he just shouted at us in Thai, and we shrugged our shoulders. We got the gist of most of it though. The boats are pretty impressive though, I guess all the drivers have small penises, I mean, check out the size of the engines for such a piddly boat:

Even our driver had a large ‘tool’:

Anyway, enough of the euphemisms, despite all the boats zooming up and down the river like they were driving a Ferrari, there was an abundance of fish!

It’s either that or they were congregating in the corner of the pier to avoid being sliced and diced by the maniac propeller-wielding boatmen (I like that, sounds better than driver?)

Anyway, we toured around some canals where the locals lived, and it’s quite an extensive network. It was rather glorious actually, beautiful sunshine beating down on your face, water lapping to your side, the sound of massive turbo-charged engine thrumming away behind you, and ladies coming up to sell you food and beer!

Needless to say, I passed on the food, and had a beer. I’m pretty sure I got done as well, I paid a quid for that tin… It was interesting seeing how the locals lived:

I then asked Charlotte what she thought of the boat-mans tool:

So that’s the boats and river toured, after this we then wandered around the town a little, had some lunch, some beer (haven’t got any photos of this), and then went back to the hotel for a freshen up and some cocktails, on the 60th floor no less:

We watched the sun down, had some more over-priced drinks (it was getting a bit like Hong Kong at this stage), and then went out to have a cheap, local Thai meal, which was delicious. I think it cost about £3 each.

Woke up the next day, bit worse for wear, and caught the boat up the Grand Palace, had a tour around, then an explore of another part of the city, and by that time it was late afternoon. Another meal, few drinks, bed, and then flew back home the next morning.

I’d recommend it for a visit, but realistically, I reckon you can see everything in just a few days. It’s basically a lot of canals, rivers, and temples (and ping-pong).

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Hello World

Wow, has it been over a month since I last updated this? Time flies when you’re having fun, it really does. I’ve got a lot to write about, and a lot of photos to download and organise. It’s been busy;  family visiting, trips away, exploring places and on Sunday I’m off to Phuket for week with Charlotte, a nice leisurely beach holiday. So upon my return, I’ll start filling you all in, along with a (maybe daily) update of China life. When it’s sunny, I often pop down to the pool to read the South China Morning Post, and it’s quite an eye-opener. I intend to just post up a couple of interesting aspects of Chinese life that you read about here, but never find out about back home…

Example today, do you realise just how BIG China actually is? Here’s some figures from today’s paper:

China will invest around US$200 billion this year in affordable housing, and will build 10 million homes.  THIS YEAR.

In the next five years, China plan to build 45 new airports. Yes, 45.

Food for thought huh?

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Cycling in the New Territories + HK BBQ

Went cycling last Sunday. About four hours or so, with a BBQ at the end. A Hong Kong BBQ at that. What’s a Hong Kong BBQ I hear you ask? We’ll come to that later.

The day started out by catching the MTR to Tai Wai (about half hour or so door to door) to meet up with Charlotte’s work colleagues (all Hong Kong’ers, we were the only “whities” as they call us). We then had to go for breakfast, which was a little daunting. You can see the “western” part of the menu below:

Choose your main, plus any two of the items below

Charlotte wimped out and had a coffee, whereas I had pork (with bone and hair/whiskers/bristles on it) with some under cooked scrambled egg, and some heavily processed ham. And a cup of tea which had been stewing for about half an hour. Lovely.

Nutritious start to the day

So we got breakfast out of the way, and then collected our jallopys. Yet again, I get a bike that is too small with all the quality of something which came from a mail order catalogue. A load of shit basically. The saddle won’t go high enough without the tube coming out of the frame, the crank arms look like they will snap if you so much as show them an angry face, but it didn’t fall off, unlike my last bike trip.

Mine was orange, Charlottes was silver

The ride itself was rather nice, we headed out of town onto one of the numerous cyclepaths towards Tai Mei Tuk. The cyclepaths in Hong Kong, from what I can tell, appear to be quite numerous. They are completley separated from traffic, and a lot of them are tarmaced as well, thus meaning you can explore safely and easily. Annoyingly, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of cyclepath maps online though. Anyway, we followed the group, splitting up a few times on the way (the standard of cycling here is rather dubious) due to accidents and/or lazy people, following the coastline for the majority of the route. After many stops waiting for people to catch up (Chinese people have short legs) we finally arrived at our destination, HappyFarm!

HappyFarm.hk if you want to view their website

We had the venue to ourselves which was rather nice, and this is where we would be having our Hong Kong BBQ. So, what’s a HK BBQ? Well, firstly you have to collect your fork:

And then choose what meat you wish to consume:

FEEEEEEDDDDD MEEEEEEEEEEE

The spread above looks a bit like Marco’s attempt at cooking a breakfast at Paddington. Quantity over quality.

Once you’ve selected your meat, you then cook it:

And repeat until all food is gone.

That my friends, is a Hong Kong BBQ.

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Museum Wednesday – Art Museum

I haven’t been to any of the Museums for a while, so on Wednesday I thought I’d go to Hong Kong’s Art Museum.

I left after half an hour. There’s only so many paintings and bits of old jewellery I can take looking at in one go. Give me architecture any day of the week.

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Christmas in Hong Kong

Another quick Christmas out of the way. Especially for Charlotte and I, it was a strange Christmas as it was so different from what we have back in the UK. For one, it was warm (we didn’t need jackets, put it that way), secondly, all the shops were open on Christmas Day, and it was pretty much business as usual. I suppose one plus side was that we didn’t have to endure the usual rubbish on TV, but that’s only because we have two English channels to watch, and one of them is a 24-hr news channel…

Christmas Eve

Anyway, the run-up to Christmas was pretty much like anywhere else, decorations up all over the place, fancy lights on buildings etc. Even our apartment block we’re putting on something a little special for Christmas Eve:

With an offer like that, how could I refuse!  Charlotte wasn’t too sure though….

So Christmas Eve rapidly arrived, and we paid a visit to the cheeky girls, sorry, I mean Christmas girls, so I could play games with them and collect my special gift. Charlotte bottled out (I don’t think she likes girls) but I played a game with them, and I won!

Spinning the wheel of fortune! Like everything in HK, it's close to the floor.

And collecting my “gift”:

WooHoo!

It’s a small pot of “pine” incense, I guess to let you pretend your in a forest or something. It’s sat next to me now on the shelf, and I can’t smell a thing. So these games were played on Christmas Eve, as we were on our way to check out what was happening on the streets of HK. Quite a lot, but also not a lot. There probably a good few hundred thousand people wandering the streets, which were all shut off, but with no real intention.

There were people eating on the streets:

Would you like chickens feet with that?

And there were people just hanging out on office chairs in the street:

And more Cheeky/Christmas Girls hanging around in doorways:

Hello Sir, can we show you a good time?

Like I said, lots of people, with no real intention.

Christmas Day

We booked ourselves into ToTT’s Restaurant which is on the 34th Floor, with views over the harbour. We also had a window seat which was nice:

It was a buffet lunch, with unlimited Moet and Chandon. The food (and drink) was all rather good, so we sat there for the next three hours stuffing ourselves. I had lots of cheese (it’s very expensive over here), Charlotte had lots of seafood (which made her ill) and we both had lots of Champagne. We both also got to meet Father Christmas! (and another Cheeky/Christmas girl):

The restaurant was, expectedly, full of expats. Some louder than others, especially the fat guy two tables across who wanted extra Champagne even though it was kicking out time… Good ol’ Brits. Needless to say the rest of the day was a bit of a blur. We skype’d the family (as you’ll know), I watched a film and Charlotte went off to have a foot massage. On Christmas Day. Only in HK!

New Years Eve

Not much to say about this really. It was pretty much a repeat of Christmas Eve, but with fireworks, and some dodgy bands playing English Christmas songs:

And that’s it. I think we’re both looking forward to a more ‘normal’ one next year. Although we do fancy the buffet and Champagne again.

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Cycling in the New Territories

Welcome voyeurs to the latest, sporadic, installment to my blog. It’s been a while I know, and I’ve got a lot to report upon, so I’ll try and make a concerted effort this week and next to bring you all up to date as to what Charlotte and I have been up to.

This Sunday just gone, I went cycling (Charlotte had a ‘girly’ day) with some friends in the New Territories. It was a very easy ride, all flat, mainly cycleways and dirt paths, some towns, some villages, some bars, and we covered about 30k over the course of 4 hours.

We met our guide at 10am at Long Ping station, which is on the West Rail line of the MTR, and then collected our bikes, which are all “Asian” size, meaning far too small, and thus we set off cycling along all with our knees bobbing up and down to our ears. I don’t really know where we went to be honest, on the map below Long Ping is highlighted with the “A”, I know we stopped off for lunch at Kam Tin to the east, but the rest of it is a bit of a mystery. It was a combination of historic villages, farmland and lots of scenery, which I’ll post later.

Long Ping, about 5 miles south of the Chinese mainland.

There’s not really that much to say about the ride, but I’ll add a gallery of all the photos at the end and add a few of the more interesting ones into this main blog thread, with captions. All of the photos can be clicked-on to enlarge.

This is an old walled village we had to push our bikes through. Typical Chinese style with the narrow paths, clothes hung out to dry etc

A small farming community. They don't trust the food from the "mainland" (China), so they grow their own. Not enough to sustain HK, but enough for the local populace.

This was a house, which has been taken over by a Banyon tree. Back in the Dynasty days, the Emperor ordered everyone to move (flooding I think?). Thus, the village was abandoned and nature took over.

A temple in one of the villages. I asked the guide what the prison gates were for, and they serve two purposes. Firstly, to keep stray dogs out. Secondly, to keep the Chinese mainlanders out. Maybe not now, but going back some years, the Chinese population were very poor, and used to come over the border to steal, temples proving very popular.

We stopped on this "pier", for want of a better word, made entirely out of rotten wood. The locals were playing rather excitedly Mahjong. It was only upon leaving and using the "toilets" that we realised we were on pond of excerment basically. The toilets dumped straight into the water we were on. Nice.

The "kitchen" on the pier.

Near the end of the ride, we had to cross this river. The two boats were rowed by a couple who were old enough to be your Gran and Grandad! A good balance was essential to avoid falling into the (probably toxic) water... Probably the highlight of the day actually!

At the end of the day, as we dropped our bikes back off in Long Ping, we encountered the boyracer of the cycling community...

I’ll add the rest of the images once I’ve figured out how. I think I need to install some kind of add-on application.

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Congratulations to Charlotte!

Not only is there a page dedicated to her in the internal Mothercare company magazine about her working in Hong Kong, but she is also employee of the month for September and October!

I’ll see if I can scan a copy in…

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Hk Science Museum

Well this is annoying. I’m at the Science Museum  (typing this on my HTC hero, think iPhone but running Google software) and it doesn’t open for another half hour. It’s much hotter than I anticipated so I’m in jeans and tshirt, when I could be quite happy in shorts. I think i’ll do that when I get back, grab the local South China News (in English) and sit by the pool.

So, the Science Museum. No idea what its like, but it’s Wednesday, which means it’s free entry day, which works for me as I’m an unemployed bum. This is what it looks like on the outside: (click to enlarge)

HK Science Museum

Pretty impressive don’t you think? Much more befitting than our attempt on Exhibition Road in Kensington.

Do you want to see what the History Museum looks like?

HK History Museum

Another architectural masterpiece serving this great city proud. If it’s glass and shiny, then it’s good. New is good. Old is bad. Even the old is new, such as the century old ex-police headquarters down by the Star Ferry terminal, which has been extensively modernised and converted into shops and restaurants. It’s a nice place, a surreal patch of relative tranquility raised above all the hustle and bustle of life below. But you don’t know what’s new, what’s old and what’s replica, which is a shame as you lose out on the history.

They also have something else here which is rather bizarre, which I have christened the “Tower  to Nowhere”. Yes, that’s right, it goes nowhere. You can climb to the top, and have a view of absolutely nothing, and do absolutely nothing. Why is it there, I do not know. But I shall make it my life’s work whilst in HK to uncover the truth behind this mysterious structure.

The Tower to Nowhere!

Anyway, the doors have opened, so in I go!

It’s a relatively interesting museum, with lots of interactive exhibits, mainly aimed at children though (which is probably why I enjoyed myself). They had  one particular ‘game’ which I felt right at home with though and was certain I’d clean up on.

Safety Officers are a pain in the ass, much like this game

VIRTUAL SAFETY OFFICER!!!

Oh how this made my day. Finally, I could re-enact out all the petty, pointless and paperwork exercising duties that these people perversely enjoy (that’s a lot of P’s!),  or else why choose it for a living? In construction terms, they are failed site managers. (It’s true, because I’ve just typed it out, and everything on the internet is true). Needless to say, I was rather crap at this game, which probably reflects on myself and my chosen career somehow.

The only other part of the museum which I thought was worthy of a mention was this little machine here, specifically aimed at children.

Please can I electrocute myself Mummy?

It’s a little machine which demonstrates how electric can flow through your body. So your young, inquisitive child wants to play with it, they put their hand on the plate, with a finger touching each of the two metal protusions. They then press a button, the little silver robots eyes flash up, and you get a distinctly unpleasant electric shock. Your child who was up until this stage enjoying him/herself, is now in floods of tears and has just shit themselves. What a wonderful exhibition.

Overall, it’s better than the Space Museum, but not as good as the History Museum.  I’ll give it 6 out of 10.

Won’t be going to the pool though, Chinese smog has descended and blocked out the sun! Today’s API (Air Pollution Index) is 60, which is classified as HIGH. I’m beginning to appreciate what it must have been like to have been a Londoner in 1952.

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Hong Kong diagnoses first bird flu case in seven years

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11782582

No more chicken feet for me then.

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