Saturday, August 27, 2005

Dave's Travelogue, Episode 1

I decided to post Dave’s adventures in the Orient, so here’s his first installment. This was sent on Aug. 8, 2005.

Most everyone knows that I have been preparing for a trip to
China this year. They promised to have me home by Christmas,
but they weren't sure when I would go. Some time between
February and August.

So, since January 3, I have been driving 6 hrs to work
each Sunday night, and 6 hrs home each Friday evening.

This Monday morning, when I walked in the building, they said "now".
So I drove home Monday night, spent two days and one night packing,
and got on a plane Thursday morning 10 am. They almost refused to
let me on the flight because I don't have a Visa to stay long
enough for my return flight in December.

Barely made a connecting flight at 12:30 in Chicago.

The plane went direct from Chicago to Hong Kong, chasing the sun.
It was 1 pm when we took off, and 5pm when we landed, but
the flight was 15 hours long, bright sunlight the whole way. We
went up near the north pole and then south through Siberia
to the southern edge of China.

I took pictures of the broken floating ice up north, and other
interesting land masses. Somewhere over China, a trick of the light
turned the land all pale silver-blue, with the rivers looking like
dragon-shaped silver inlays.

While I and two other guys were standing next to the rear exit door,
a stocky five-year-old boy tried to push the opening lever. We
shooed him away. Sometime, on some flight somewhere, some boy whose
mom is sleeping ... maybe not. Maybe they have an electronic lock or

I sat next to Al and LaLa ( yes, LaLa ) from Chicago, who are dating
each other, and recently graduated college. Opposites ( Al and La )
must attract.

Hong Kong time is exactly twelve hours different from home. Home's
5pm is my 5am.

I had the grilled eel fried rice and some unspecified soup for dinner
at the Ajisen Noodle restaurant at the Hong Kong airport. Best durn
grilled eel I ever had. Well, it was OK. I struggled with the chopsticks.
I may lose weight here.

The lady said I need to stay two extra days in Hong Kong because my
Visa for mainland China will not be ready until 3 pm Monday.

So, I got up 9:15am Saturday, and made it to the hotel breakfast
buffet. They had lots of ordinary breakfast stuff, like cereal,
an omelet bar, sausage and ham, plus some interesting items,
like dim sum dumplings, barbeque pork in a steamed biscuit, chicken
and rice wrapped in leaves, and Japanese Miso soup, which was very
similar to the other soup, and plain Congee, which is like rice grits.

I wanted to go sightseeing, but I couldn't use the train schedule,
because I don't have a watch. I left my cell phone in the USA.
So I bought a cell phone for $1078. Hong Kong dollars. Divide by 7.
Everyone who wants to sell you something speaks English.

I pulled $1200 HK from an ATM, purchased the Lonely Planet guide
to Hong Kong, and ventured out to see the world about 2:30pm.

The airport and hotel are on an island by themselves, a man-made
island that is almost connected to Lantau island. A train runs
from the airport, over a bridge to Lantau, another bridge to
Ma Wan, another bridge to Tsing Yi, another bridge to mainland
China, then and undersea tunnel to Hong Kong island.

Hong Kong is Humid. And Hot. And Humid. You don't get hit by the
sun much, because the buildings were tall, so it is a shady,
damp kind of hot.

It is similar to an American city, with lots of small shops like
New York, and lots of malls. The supermarket had brands I knew,
like Betty Crocker, and also things in Chinese.

At first I was kind of trapped in a mall above the train station.
I tried to leave one way, but a doorman explained I was going in
the wrong direction, the walkway dead-ends, so he sent me to
an open square on the roof of the mall, where I got some pictures
of the harbor.

Then I followed a couple from Norway who knew the way. You need
to leave the mall via a second-story walkway. They have these
walkways all over Hong Kong, some just cross one street, others
go for blocks.

I found a nice little air conditioned restaurant called the
Bauhinia on Queens Central, and had Japanese noodles with
various seafood, including squid or octopus. Sat there
until I had figured some sites to see.

Hong Kong Island is a mountain, though a small enough mountain
to walk up, if you care to. You need to really care. The city
is along the north shore of the island, and relatively flat,
from my point of view. Up the hill side they have
residential areas, and on the Peak there is a hotel and amusements.

I first walked uphill to St John's Cathedral, more of a
pretty little church than a Cathedral, then downhill to Statue
Square, where all the house servants spend their Saturdays. The
statue was of some bank executive. There was a group of Christians
singing "Above All" and other songs to an electric guitar. I met
a Canadian named Andrew, who wanted to use my guidebook to find
the entrance to the tram car up to the Peak. It turned out to be
near St John's.

I walked to Central Escalator, which is the world's longest
escalator. It is built into one of those second story walkways,
leading from the city up to the residential levels. I hit it at
evening rush hour, so there was a steady stream of people riding
it home from work.

I walked back down to the city, then up past St John's. I figured
it would be best to ride the tram to the Peak just after sunset.
Everyone else in Hong Kong had the same idea. There was not quite
a thousand people waiting in line for tickets.

The tram is very much like the incline at home. Longer, with a
bigger brighter city, but at the top, our city actually provides
a much wider, better view of the city. Hong Kong provided fireworks
above the city.

I have been struggling with my new digital camera. It seems that
my old camera was simple enough to keep me out of trouble, but
my new camera provides a hundred ways for me to take a bad photo.
Mostly, I like to use that big 10x zoom, which makes the exposure
longer while also magnifying the shake, which generally spells

I was going to take an after dark harbor tour, but as I walked in that
direction, my feet decided I had seen enough Hong Kong for one day,
so I took the train back to the airport and hotel.

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