I was in Hong Kong once before in my life, but it was for about 90 minutes before I had to run off to the airport. Last week I spent two and a half days there (training the customer service and technical support team for HK-based sales of the Slingbox, it’s part of what I do), and while most of the time I was hard at work, I did get to see a few things. More importantly, I got to eat a lot of local food (at my insistence).
This first batch of pictures is from the drive from Hong Kong airport to the hotel (Sheraton in Tsim Sha Tsui, a central area of the city). Interestingly, there is only a single bridge to connect the airport with the rest of the city. One other thing you won’t really notice from the pictures is the unbelievable pollution – as we landed it was almost as thick as the fog in San Francisco!
I checked into the hotel (quite nice, by the way, I definitely recommend it if you head out there), then went out for a stroll. This is my typical ‘fly to East Asia from San Francisco’ ritual I use to try to get a little tuckered out and avoid as much jet lag as possible. The streets in Tsim Sha Tsui are busy in the evenings, with many of the local stores open for business. Tourist business, that is. This definitely the region to come if you want a cheap (fake) watch or hand-made suit, and about every 5 feet someone reminds you of that fact. “Rolex, sir, you want Rolex?” comes across a little funny when pronounced with a bit of a British accent…
One of my favorite food groups is, well, all food actually. But I definitely enjoy dim sum (when staying in San Francisco, check out New Asia in Chinatown. New Asia, for all your dim sum needs), and enjoyed a nice variety for lunch on the first day. For dinner, I was taken to another Chinese restaurant (both meals were had in malls by the way), where I had a very interesting variety of foods. The most interesting, but definitely my least favorite, was the fruit and lobster salad covered in mayonnaise. I’ll just say that the Hellman’s didn’t quite bring out the best in that dish, but the rest of dinner was very good.
I found the architecture of Hong Kong quite interesting, but unfortunately didn’t get to take enough pictures (damn Swedes, I was primarily using the 2MP phone in the HTC Mteor I was using – more on that in a couple of days). Tons of high-rise apartment buildings, literally in sight in all directions at all times. The newer office buildings all had a very futuristic Blade Runner-like look (no surprise, since the sets were partially based on Hong Kong). But the older building all looked a little decrepit and run-down. Interesting blend. By the way, you have to zoom in on the picture on the right – trust me.
On day 2 the whole team and I went out for dim sum lunch, and we had quite a spread. Once they realized I really liked Chinese food and dim sum, and realized I had decent chopsticks skills, they started egging me on to try just about everything they ordered. The quality of the food was great, with a lot more flavor and less greasiness than I typically find in American dim sum establishments. Although I don’t really think I need to get duck foot dumplings in the future. Mmm, cartilage.
We finished training at the end of the day (Friday) and before meeting up for dinner, I had about an hour to kill. They directed me to an area called Mong Kok, which is basically the shopping region of Hong Kong. Electronics stores on every corner, featuring a huge array of cameras, laptops, and, of course cell phones. There are actually 1.25 phones per resident of Hong Kong, and there are over 400 different models available for purchase at any given time (as compared with about 40 in the entire US). I also found a small street of tent-based merchants, selling a variety of different fake stuff, including shoes, clothes, purses, and watches. I picked up a nice replica of a ‘color dreams’ from Franck Muller.
I found my way back to the hotel via the subway system. One of my favorite things to do when travelling is take at least one ride on a local subway, I find it really gives me a bit more of a feeling for how people live in a given city. The plasma displays at some of the stops was a nice touch.
For my last dinner in Hong Kong, I was taken to the top of Victoria Peak. Unfortunately we left slightly too late to see the nightly laser show across the skyline of the city, but the view from the peak was amazing. We went to a famous restaurant, Cafe Deco, where I managed to stay awake through the worst part of jetlag (yes, it’s the third night) long enough not to face-plant into the great New Zealand lamb chops I was served. I was totally out (as predicted by my host) during the drive back to the hotel.
Saturday morning I woke up bright and early to catch the convenient (and free) shuttle bus to the Kowloon express train station. I was able to check in to my flight there, then a zippy train ride took me to the airport for the flight home.
One more thing to share with you (wow, can’t believe you made it this far!) was regarding airport security. I was in Sweden two weeks ago, and my flight home came via Frankfurt airport, about three days after the huge ‘shampoo+iPod’ scare at Heathrow. In Frankfurt I was told to dispose of my water bottle, and then let on the plane. In Hong Kong a team of about 40 people was hand-screening every single passenger and all of their bags. While they moved along quite efficiently, I couldn’t help but think how ridiculous it makes America look that we are so scared of someone getting on a plane with a bottle of lotion.
Anyhow, Hong Kong was great, I’d really like more time to explore and take in the sights and all, but I guess that’ll have to wait for next time. In the meanwhile, please beware of stairs.