Robbed of Hong Kong
20 Feb 2005
When I bought my tickets I arranged for a day and a half in Hong Kong on the way back from Taiwan. I wanted to take in as much of that Hong Kong glitz as I could in 36 hours. To my dismay, I was totally robbed of the Hong Kong experience. Prepare yourself for some extended whining.
My last night in Taipei I must have eaten something bad. I think it was the Korean food, although it’s hard to tell because I ate three times that previous night. The next morning I promptly unloaded the contents of my stomach. Feeling horrible, I managed to make it to Hong Kong without further incident.
My original plan was to pull an all-nighter in Hong Kong since I was only there for one night, but that idea was quickly abandoned. After arriving, I went straight to the Ramada Hotel in Kowloon and slept. I had plans to meet up with several people in Hong Kong, but I was in no condition to chat with people I’d never met before. (My apologies to those people.) I did call Katherine, who was a teacher at ZUCC during the SARS semester. She has lived in Hong Kong all her life, and I already knew her. Turns out she was sick too, but agreed to try to meet up the next day.
So how was I robbed? One of Hong Kong’s biggest attractions is the food. Hong Kong cuisine is pretty universally regarded as top-notch — even the street food. I was looking forward to pigging out. But even a whiff of those delicacies sent waves of nausea through me. In my condition I was almost completely unable to eat the entire time I was in Hong Kong.
Another famous tourist destination in Hong Kong is Victoria Peak, from which a stunning view of the city can be taken in. It’s said to be especially beautiful at night, and I’ve seen the pictures to prove it. Feeling a little better, I set out around 5pm get up there and see the view. I took the Star Ferry, but sat on the wrong side (I didn’t realize at first that the boat just reverses direction when it goes back across), so I got a crap view of the harbor. What I did see, though, was that Victoria Peak was completely covered in fog. I couldn’t see it at all. The top of the IFC 2 building couldn’t be seen either. I abandoned that plan, deciding instead to walk around Hong Kong Island. Not long after, though, my intestinal condition sent me scurrying back to my hotel via subway.
Feeling worse again, I went back to sleep for a while.
When I woke up I decided to walk around Kowloon more and see more of the signature Hong Kong streets. It started raining, though, so I ducked into some little place for a massage. It was a legit establishment, but the masseuse was a bit saddistic. At first I thought she was asking “are you OK?” in order to adjust the level of pressure. Later, when I started making uncomfortable noises, she’d say, “pain?” and I’d reply “YES!” to which she’d just laugh and continue at the same pressure.
The next morning I slept in until 11:30, with some effort. I still felt pretty terrible, but the hotel maids apparently weren’t aware of the 12:00 check-out time or the meaning of “DO NOT DISTURB.”
I went to Kowloon Park. That was pretty cool… I liked the flamingoes and the aviary. Then I bought and sent some postcards in Central. I met Katherine at 2, and was able to get some food down. (Shouldn’t have eaten that delicious chocolate cake, though. I immediately regretted it. My stomach was churning viciously within an hour.)
Katherine took me to meet her boyfriend, who runs a very nice Indian clothing store called Sanskrit. Very impressive operation, and he was a cool guy.
Then I rode the “world’s longest escalator” (wow, what a thrill) and headed up Victoria Peak via tram anyway. I had time to kill before I had to be at the airport, so I figured I might as well. It was cold and wet, with bad visibility.
On the train back to the airport I talked to a rabbi from Israel. The initial conversation went something like this:
> Him: Is this the train that goes to the airport?
> Me: Yes. Are you a rabbi?
Ah, interlocutionary finesse of this caliber cannot be learned, my friends. (He really looked like a stereotypical rabbi, with the black clothing, the beard, the wide-brimmed black hat, being old etc.) His English was only so-so, but we had a decent chat. He told me that in Argentina in the 1960s someone told him that the scariest thing in the world today was “the Yellow Threat” (meaning China).
Sensing a unique opportunity, I decided to ask him about something I recently read about in The Da Vinci Code (which I finally read in Taipei). So I asked him about Shekinah, whom Dan Brown describes as the ancient female counterpart to Jehovah. I got a confusing description. He said in the Kaballah’s attempt to explain how a purely spiritual being (God) could create a physical being (Man), it developed a series of stages, one of which was Shekinah. OK. Anyway, I’ve definitely had more boring train rides. Nicest Israeli rabbi I ever met.
I didn’t take any pictures in Hong Kong because I didn’t want to bother with my temperamental camera, which only works half the time now.
The flight back to Shanghai wasn’t good either, but I can sum it up succinctly in two words: China Eastern.
Lesson learned: Don’t pin high hopes on a one-day vacation, because not only are there weather factors that can’t be controlled, but sometimes one’s own health fails as well.
I’ll try to make it back to Hong Kong in the future. It was a crazy, interesting place.