Friday, January 7, 2005

Hong Kong #2

Day Two
Thursday 1/6/05

Woke up this morning at around 7:30am. Opened the window and lookedout on Hong Kong, wow. I saw tall buildings, ships sailing in the harbour, a misty early morning haze (part fog, part smog) and it was just lovely.

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We went down and grabbed breakfast at the hotel kitchen,a very nice contintental breakfast but it also had Dim Sum and a fewother Chinese breakfast staples. Then we walked around Tsim Tsa Tsui (the name of this urban district) and grabbed some pastries and then went into the office. We met Purple L., Karen (I didn't catch her last name), David S. (another UK buyer) and exchanged pleasantries for a little bit. The seemed very busy so I used this opportunity to head to the Hong Kong Temple for a few hours.

The Hong Kong temple is very pretty (aren't they all?) and vertical.

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You enter at ground level and use the elevator to go everywhere else. Offices on the second floor, and all the other rooms go up from there.

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The highest floor in the Temple (the fifth floor) is where the Celestial Room is that you can see in the LDS "Temples" Magazine. I met the stake president and he taught me a few Cantonese words and phrases and discovered that today is the Area Temple day. Had I been able to come in at 9am I would have been in a session with the Area Authorities and Mission Presidency. I was wondering why there were so many Elders here today.

I rode the cab back to Tsim Tsa Tsui and we did more preliminary business stuff, mostly Jim's, tomorrow is set aside for my company. Then we went to dinner at a Chinese Restaurant (they're all the same, big room, big round tables, family seating) and ate some various Chinese dishes, lots of stir fry and steamed foods. Jim's a "meat and potatos" American so he didn't eat but a little bit of most of the dishes. He ate the rice, a beef dish, and lots of Bok Choy (chinese spinach I guess would be a good translation) but passed on most of the other things. Me? I'm part Thai and jungle people can eat anything so I fit right in at dinner. If the chinese were eating it, so was I.

Observations made of Hong Kong after one full day:

  1. Red cabs are for Hong Kong and Tsim Tsa Tsui and environs, Blue Cabs are for much longer trips
  2. Hong Kong is clean. I mean really really clean. They have no welfare system. If you want money for food, you work. They had streetsweepers out at all hours and even the cabs are cleaned regularly. If the cab has no fare, they fill up a water pail and wipe down the cab.
  3. Hong Kong feels comfortable. This area (Tsim Tsa Tsui) is mostly Chinese, not a lot of tourists, and you feel very much at ease here. No creepy looking thugs that look like they'll pick your pocket or rob you. I discovered the crime rate is very low as well, violent crime just isn't common according to the folks I talked to.
  4. Most everybody speaks at least pidgin English. However, Cantonese is king here. I was told that my Mandarin (what little I speak) is almost flawless but my Cantonese needs help. I'm going to have to learn Wongtongwa (Cantonese) first it seems. Mandarin is easy compared to Cantonese. I've listened to Mandarin and Cantonese side-by-side and Cantonese sounds prettier, I like it a lot.
  5. Hong Kong is just about unaffected by the 1997 handover back to China. This place feels like the most cosmopolitan place I've ever been. Business practices are more heavily influenced by the British than anything noticeably Chinese.
  6. Get an Octopus Card. These are credit card sized bits of plastic that you can get just about anywhere. They're an RFID card connectedto the Hong Kong Bank or some other financial institution like that.You can "recharge" them at any Circle K or Seven Eleven and they actas Urban Debit cards. Use them at convenience stores, bus stations, subway stations, railway stations, and on the harbour ferry... they rock. You can't use them with taxi cabs yet though.
  7. Wear comfy shoes. You'll do a lot of walking.
  8. Whenever you want to go someplace by cab, get the hotel concierge to write the chinese address on the back of one of the hotel's business cards and just hand the card to the cab driver. That saves so much headache.
  9. People hand out flyers all over the place (like Las Vegas)... just shake your head no and move on. They're probably for a strip club (aka a "Karaoke bar" or "Club" which is short for "Night Club"). If you want to dance you want a discotec or a dance club... not a night club.
  10. They tip here roughly 10% which is different than mainland China where they don't tip (might be seen as a bribe and goes against that whole communist we're all equal thing). Hong Kong 2 dollar coins are great for tips. You get a handful of these things after a day of buying things, just save them to give out as tips.
  11. HONG KONG DOESN'T GET STARTED UNTIL 10AM. There is just no reason to wake up early around here. The shops that are open at 8am you can probably count on one hand. By 9am, most offices and professional places are open (of course, major banks are open by 6am but they're global in scope). By 10am the bulk of the shops are open and by 11am they're almost all open. The Chinese work hard and stay late but they get started late as well. It's a nice system, you get to enjoy the morning weather and go for a stroll or walk in the cool morning air and eat some pastries (street vendors are open by 8am usually and bakeries are open early like the banks).
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