Asia Day 7-21: Hong Kong

  • Hong Kong is really, really dense. This is a fact that my dad likes to constantly point out whether we’re on a bus going through Kowloon or in a car driving across Sheppard back home. I thought Singapore was dense, but Kowloon and the shore of Hong Kong Island blow it out of the water. Everything is packed, even all the older areas. I’m not sure how to characterize it except that there are towers and tons of people pretty much everywhere you turn.
  • I spent my time in Hong Kong with my family, which meant that I didn’t really do anything in the way of planning, I just let them handle it. This turned out to be a really good idea because my extended family basically gave us a pile of delicious places to check out and brought us to more non-touristy places and a lot of these places would have been troublesome to navigate without literacy in the Chinese language.
  • Speaking of literacy, this really stretched the limits of my Cantonese skills. Unlike SG and KL, HK is pretty ethnically homogenous, so everything’s in Chinese and Cantonese by default. Of course, being a British colony for about a century means that basically everyone knows English fairly well. On the other hand, social interactions felt a lot more natural here, as long as conversations didn’t get too complex. A common occurrence was starting a conversation in Cantonese and have it fall apart about a minute or two in, revealing my true identity as a stealth Westerner.
  • This was a very helpful video. I’m still not entirely sure which aunt/uncle is supposed to be which, there were a lot of them.
  • Beer is really cheap. Obviously, fancier stuff costs about the same, but your typical dinner drinking fare is something like 15-20 HKD (2-3 CAD) for a litre. Also, I was really fascinated by the beer bowls at some of the more Chinesey places.
  • UNIQLO. Oh my God, Uniqlo. I think I went to about ten different Uniqlo stores and bought something from almost each one and they didn’t even have any Gundam t-shirts. I am profoundly saddened that there isn’t a Uniqlo in Canada. List of Uniqlos I went to: apm, Telford Plaza, Festival Walk, Cityplaza, Miramar, Olympian City, Harbour City, PopCorn, New Town Plaza, and the Lee Theatre flagship store.
  • I hadn’t appreciated using cards for arcades like at Bugis until the arcades here forced me to stuff six 1 HKD coins into the machines within thirty seconds. Similarly, trading in a 20 HKD bill and carrying 20 coins around is also annoying.
  • Most of the transfers on the MTR are very well designed. On most lines, they make sure there are two transfer stations right after the other and which station you transfer at depends on which direction you want to go in on the new line. This lets the station be designed such that every transfer is done by walking across the platform and you never have two streams of people moving against each other. Compare this to the Bloor-Yonge or St. George transfers, where people are forced to move between levels and everyone is moving against each other.
  • Speaking of the MTR, somehow my parents arranged for us to stay at one of the few areas that doesn’t have walking access to the MTR, To Kwa Wan. The closest MTR station was Mong Kok, which is about a half hour walk. The result of this is that I got really well acquainted with the geography of the city through buses, all of which are double-deckers. But I was told not to worry, To Kwa Wan would be getting an MTR station there once the Central-Shatin link was done in 2020.

Asia Day 0

On kind of a whim, I decided to go to a bunch of places in Asia. I never did go on a cool trip after I finished my undergrad. I kind of figured if I were going to go check out Asia, it’d have to be now, in what’s likely my last significant chunk of time I have where I can do what I want without feeling bad.

So I decided to go to a bunch of places. How did I decide? Well, I definitely want to go to Japan, so I decided to be in Tokyo during Comiket because I am a gigantic nerd. And if I was going to Japan, I should probably go to Hong Kong because I likely wouldn’t go there otherwise and family and all. And I decided to go to Singapore because just going to HK and Tokyo seemed kind of lame for a trip and Singapore seems like a cool place that I could survive in with English and poor Cantonese skills. And I decided to go to Kuala Lumpur because it’s close enough to Singapore and also seems like a cool city. I like cities. So the plan is Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.

I got up bright and early to get to Pearson because US security takes hours or something. It turns out that didn’t really help except maybe to beat the horrible 401 rush hour traffic. They do this thing now where they queue you in customs by departure time, so I basically spent two hours between check-in and customs. Apparently this is because of US budget cuts or something. THANKS OBAMA.

The first flight was a tiny one to Chicago and was fairly pleasant. Wifi was allegedly offered on the flight but I never got it to work. Oh well, it was short enough that it didn’t really matter and I got some chores done in Animal Crossing. O’Hare was okay I guess except that they don’t offer free wifi. THANKS OBAMA.

I don’t fly much, so this is my first significant experience on a long flight. It sucks. Being on an airplane is neat. Being on an airplane for fifteen hours without Internet is not so great. Especially when assigned next to a baby. I dabbled around on my 3DS and iPad for a bit before realising I could check out the on board entertainment. I ended up watching the first half an hour of House of Cards and Wreck-it Ralph before settling on two episodes of Top Gear and Utada Hikaru’s second singles collection. Deliverance eventually arrived and I got to explore HKG.

First, I’d like to mention that the HK security people don’t seem intimidating at all. They all seemed like laid back Cantonese sitcom people. After the quick checkpoint, I looked for food and decided to get congee because the airline food was kinda gross. One very nice thing about HKG is that they have these wonderful charging stations that include USB outlets. Sadly, there only seemed to be one for an entire stretch of gates.

The flight from HK to Singapore was a lot nicer since the actual flight was much shorter and I was seated beside grown men instead of screaming and pooping children. And that brings us to Singapore.