Robbed of Hong Kong

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.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Real shame you didn’t do, see, or eat much. Next time you’re in HK, I’ll probably be there to show you around!

  2. Yea, haha. China Eastern just threw me for a loop too: an overnight detour to an unheated hotel in Chengdu because the weather in Xi’an was too foggy to land.

  3. At least their flight attendents are hot. Eh? Eh? Am I right or am I right?

  4. definitely, especially compared to some of those baritones on American Airlines.

  5. Wait, Katherine is still sick? Sorry you couldn’t experience HK to the fullest because of the stomach bug. It gives you a reason to return.

    Had a great time in Taipei, Taiwan – it was great to have you there, John. Hope all is well back in Shanghai. Looking forward to Junk Food Review (2) Taipei. Let me know if you want a hand in image production.

  6. Victoria peak was fogged when I was there too. But there is a observation half way up the mountian.

  7. So what else did you do in Taiwan?

  8. magnum, i miss your attempts at pretending to update your blog. strange news comes in small packages.

  9. Da Xiangchang Says: February 22, 2005 at 5:55 am


    I’m curious to hear your opinion of The Da Vinci Code. To me, Dan Brown is a writer of rather limited talent. His scenes showing Sophie’s interactions with her granddad when she was a kid were laughably saccharine and awful. Still, I have to admit, the novel really held my interest. Is it popular in China? Bad writing and zero character development aside, The Da Vinci Code probably is the cleverest novel I’ve read since Grisham’s The Firm.

  10. ok, i don’t get it. your sister is a massage therapist — damn good one, too! — but when she (yeah, “I”) used to want to give you FREE massages as practice while she was in school, you COMPLAINED. now you go looking for massage (and don’t claim it’s just for hot women, b/c you stressed that the place was Legit), and your “therapist” is a sicko who isn’t even good! what’s wrong w/ this picture….

  11. Da Xiangchang Says: February 22, 2005 at 1:18 pm

    Getting a massage from your sister is TOTALLY DIFFERENT from getting one from a strange woman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Even if the parlor’s 100% legit, the very IDEA that some hot broad is touching you is titillation enough. The only massage parlors I NEVER go to are the ones where you’re poked and kneaded by some old blind guy or some middle-aged broad with a spare tire around her waist. But a nice lissome woman–I don’t care if she’s a nun, I’ll be turned on. You close your eyes and off you go into a fantasy world . . . It’s a great way to spend a couple of hours. And sometimes, it’s not even the woman–you’re just amazed by how exotic your life is at that moment. In some massage parlor in East Asia hanging out. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh . . . .

  12. the purpose of massage is relaxation, not titillation. or else it is for pain relief. what you are talking about is what is euphemistically referred to as “sensual massage” — that one has a different purpose.

    (and poor john sounds like he got none of the above!)

  13. HA! Sorry I have forced you to comment about my long dead blog on someone else’s blog Peter. Something new will be up in its place soon…

  14. Da Xiangchang: John was absolutely gripped by the Da Vinci Code during his stay in Taipei.

    As for my massage turn-ons, the only ones I’ll pay for at this point are the blind man massages, namely, those from “The Man” in Hangzhou, as “Kiwi Chris” often called him.

    I think about the massages all the time, mostly because of how truly theurapeutic (sp) they were. The hour massage for $4 USD satisfied, above and beyond, the value seeking individual in me, and combined with the music coming from my earphones, the near heavenly experience was my weekly vacation – reminding me that “Life is Good.”

  15. Ah, I wondered why you dropped off the radar!

    Next time… next time… you can’t truly say you’ve been to Hong Kong without suffering severe gastronomic exhaustion, as attractive as the bowels of Kowloon may be!

  16. Oh at least you didn’t have to stay at the Mansions while you were in HK. Oh my, your trip would have been THAT much worse. Always something to be thankful for. I hope you can enjoy your next HK visit a little more.

  17. Peter Stanton Says: May 10, 2007 at 2:52 am

    Hong Kong-Don’t Drink The Water-
    Hong Kong-Don’t Drink The Water,

    Maybe higher powers were protecting you but Hong Kong’s food is overrated, polluted and not very fresh. The vegetables from China contain DDT and arsenic. The water is dirty and if they don’t disguise it with lemon then you can taste the pollution. They will not do anything to curb their air pollution due to over priced penis symbol cars for rich people and blame the mainland for their 8 cylinders and diesel busses.

    The people are like New York. They act like they are doing you a favor for taking your money.

    Don’t eat the street food and especially anything in a wet market. They have the highest birth defect rate in the world and that says a lot about a place that has the fourth largest cash reserve in the world.

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