Hong Kong


Friday, September 17, 2010

On my way to Hong Kong. My flight was at 1, so I went for a short hike, up Spring Ridge trail at Windy Hill, to Skyline and back. Interesting to see a plume of smoke from Palo Alto, which I later learned was a house fire at University and Hale. Roger was going to give me a ride to the airport, so I called him and advised him to take the Embarcadero exit from US 101. No problem.

Roger dropped me at the airport with plenty of time to stop in the Red Carpet club and get a glass of a really fine red wine (Sequana?). Did a certain amount of work while I waited for the plane.

Saturday, September 18

Had an empty seat next to me on the flight, which is about as good as it gets. The next seat beyond was occupied by a friendly Vietnamese woman, going home to see her family for the first time in the three years she has been in the US. She lives in Orlando, spent two years learning English, then wanted to open a restaurant, discovered the barriers of American laws, but now has the restaurant going. She said it was a small restaurant, ten tables; I asked whether she had to close it to go on vacation. No, she said, she has a manager to keep it going. Good for her.

Flight arrived right at 6. During the pre-landing announcements, I’m sure someone said 6 AM, which I couldn’t believe, and sure enough, it was 6 PM. Sunlight all the way, but not for much longer. Took a while to get through passport control, but it was easy to find the prepaid hotel shuttle counter, where half a dozen other Broadband Forum people were also waiting.

The bus left at 7, and it was 8 by the time I was settled in. Long ride, part of it past what has to be one of the world’s largest container ports. Amazing! A bit hazy or foggy, so the views of the city from across the water were not what might have been expected.

Definitely British in background. You alight from the bus, the triangular signs along the road say Give Way, and of course we drive on the left.

Pretty tired; I bought enough to eat from the hotel room’s minibar selection and crashed.

Sunday, September 19

Up an hour early because my alarm incorrectly thought there was daylight saving time here. Breakfast is only available at 6:30, so it was an opportunity to check email and look through the tourist bumpf. My room looks out over the harbor, but the view is constrained by projections in the hotel itself to a fairly narrow slot. ’Tis okay.

Breakfast: a big plateful of protein followed by a big plateful of fruit. Asked the waiter what that green star-shaped fruit was: he said it was star fruit. Oh, okay. Skipped the core, which looked fibrous – the waiter agreed that it was – the taste was a bit on the sour side. Okay, but probably not one of my favourites.

Met Anna coming in from her morning run, just as I was going out. She said it was hot and humid; she had felt as if she might faint on her run. I invited her to come wander with me today, but she said that Mike, Richard, Arlynn and herself had thought to go to the giant buddha today. She invited me along, but giant buddhas don’t appeal that much, so I skipped it.

The view from Victoria peak is supposed to be the standard Hong Kong classic. People go there on the funicular, which I think is supposed to be the steepest in the world. As you would predict, I thought it might be interesting to see if it’s possible to walk up. (Jumping ahead of the story: yes, it is.)

I’m somewhat handicapped by not having more than the throw-away tourist map, but I figure Victoria peak is the high point: how hard can it be?

The real Hong Kong starts just a block from the hotel. It’s as gritty as any city.

Hot and sticky, indeed.

I walked parallel to the shore for a while, then started angling my way uphill. One interesting difference from home is that the construction scaffolds are made of bamboo.

Found myself in Hong Kong park, a pleasant place. There’s a conservatory of plants, which I skipped, since it only opened at 9, and I didn’t want to wait around that long. Further on, there’s a walk-through aviary, also opening at 9, but it was only a fifteen minute wait by now. Pretty interesting place.

From there, I made my way to the Peak tram station, thinking there might be a trail just parallel to the line, but if there is, I didn’t find it. What I did find is the Old Peak road, about as steep as any road is ever likely to be. The sidewalks gave out as the density of buildings dropped off, and the corresponding reduction of traffic made it okay to walk in the road.

Eventually came to the upper tram station, started what I think is the peak loop that people recommend. It seems to be about 3 km, more or less level, and the implication of that is that there is a lot more mountain further up. After about a kilometer, I found a stone-paved trail going up, so of course I took it.

Gets to be hard work. But up by the radio towers was a little park garden, very pleasant.

Okay, now I have to get down, preferably without destroying any connective tissue. The only shoes I have are Birkenstocks, and it would also be good not to destroy them.

I was rather hoping to find a few beetles and maybe a mantis, but the selection of small animals was pretty limited. Butterflies and dragonflies, a few spiders, that was about it.

I ended up coming down Lugarno road, a gentle and very scenic walk through the woods, which eventually dropped me out at the point where I had departed the ring trail to try the stone-paved trail to the peak.

I had taken a bottle of water from the hotel, and refilled it once already, but I was dry again. Fortunately there was a little picnic area at the junction where I could refill it yet again. Then on down the paths, considerably steeper now, steps in many places.

Very pretty, and not that crowded. I was alone for many minutes at a time. As with the SF bay area, it’s hard to believe you’re within a handful of kilometers from millions of people.

It was great to hike in the hills, in the woods. But I was also ready to get back into the city, when at last I came down a flight of steps that would have had Friedrich in a cold sweat, and rejoined the city streets near Hong Kong university.

It’s a long way back to Causeway bay, where my hotel is. The water bottle is empty again, it’s hot and muggy, and I actually feel like I did a certain amount of exercise today. The mountain is only 550 meters high, but it was steep and a hot and sticky day.

Especially as I worked east through the city, I kept encountering streets that you couldn’t cross at grade. Going up and down the steps to the overcrossings started to become a nuisance. I suppose someday Hong Kong, and maybe many other cities, will have separate levels for motor vehicles and pedestrians, and never the twain shall meet.

Our Munich friends encouraged pictures of people, just ordinary people, so I tried it. Mostly in markets, street markets and produce stalls.

There are enormous numbers of people just sitting around, in the parks, on the curbs, everywhere. I notice, of course I notice, that most of them are women. No idea whether this is just a normal Sunday afternoon practice with all the men home watching football on TV, or whether something special is going on.

Back to the hotel somewhere around 3:30. I had thought to visit Kowloon today as well, but had neither time nor energy. First stop in the hotel room was for a big drink of water! Much better! Then some photo editing, a bit of napping.

Around 6, I went to the Dickens bar in the cellar of the Excelsior hotel. As you would expect in any respectable English pub, they had Erdinger Weissbier, dunkel. Not too bad. Had they asked, I probably would have ordered fish and chips and just eaten there as well. But they didn’t invite me to eat.

So I wandered around the neighborhood a bit. Hot, muggy, bustling, jam-packed crowded. The sushi restaurant I had noticed this morning had a line out the door, so I’m not going there. But the world trade center just across from the hotel had a number of restaurants in its air-conditioned convenience, so after fifteen minutes in the real world, I went there.

Thought I might try a Japanese restaurant, but everything seemed to be breaded and deep-fried, so I ended up at Rice Paper, the next-door Vietnamese restaurant instead. Not bad at all. Star fruit in salad was better than star fruit stand-alone.

And tomorrow the meetings begin.


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