The China Syndrome
A week ago, Japan was rocked. The triple whammie was capped by a nuclear “problem” that as of this writing could still result in a meltdown, and possibly burn a hole straight thru the planet. This very unlikely event is called “The China Syndrome” in the west. In Japan they probably call it the New Jersey Syndrome.
We therefore came to China. Well Hong Kong anyway. Fragrant Harbor. Victoria’s Island. These are the names the brits used for it when they colonized it. I call it the last stand of the British Empire. Oh, they still drive on the wrong side of the street, but it is now a Chinese city, with twists. For instance, no need for a visa. If you want to cross into mainland china, you have to get a visa, but not for the island of Hong Kong. So, we came. We will see. Will we conquer?
Actually this trip had been on our agenda long before Japan started sliding into the sea. Mary Ann will be attending a conference here for a few days, and I am along for the ride.
We could have taken a non-stop flight on Emirates Air, but as good as that airline is, and the fact that it would have saved us 3 or 4 hours in travel time, it just is not worth paying 40% more. So, we flew Qatar airlines. Qatar is one of the few airlines in the world awarded 5 star status by whomever gives out ratings for airlines. I have flown Qatar back and forth to Thailand a few times now, and I am already on step two in their frequent flyer program. That clinches the decision to spend more time in transit. There are upgrades in my future!
To go anywhere on Qatar, you either start your trip or change planes in Doha. The Doha airport is a work in progress. The terminal has no regular gates with jet ways to board the flight. You must ride a bus from your incoming flight and another out to your departing flight. That is not rare. But in Doha, the planes park miles away from the terminal. You spend a very long time on the bus. Our continuing flight took off an hour after we arrived. So, we got off the bus, ran through the terminal, and got back on the bus. Strangely, the 45 minute flight from Dubai to Doha was on a triple 7. Big, quiet and comfortable. The 7 hour flight from Doha to Hong Kong was on an Airbus 330. The Boeing product is superior in many ways. But we got to HK safe, sound and on-time.
My excellent tour organizer, my wife, found us a really nice hotel in the Wan Chei neighborhood. The room is as good as a hotel room gets, with all the amenities including excellent Wi-Fi. We partook of dinner in the hotel last night. We had Tsing Tao beer on draft, which I have never had before. We ate pork and duck. We knew we were not back in the UAE! The restaurant had many shark fin dishes, which I passed on and will continue to pass on, for many reasons.
Across the street is the Happy Valley Race track, as in PONIES! As in GAMBLING! Wednesday night is the big night and I intend to feed the ponies, as in lose money betting.
Today we are off to see the town. Maybe a city tour in a double decker bus with no driver on the top. Maybe a boat tour in the harbor. Maybe a gondola ride to the top of the highest hill in HK. Maybe a trip up another hill to see a big Buddha. I do not care. It is all up to Mary Ann. Like I said, I am along for the ride. I just hope to find a Dim Sum restaurant and maybe a British pub with warm dark nasty ale, a banger and some spotted dick. Well, maybe not the pub.
The weather is cold and rainy, but no radiation from the neighbors, at least not yet. One thing I truly find refreshing so far….I have not heard a single horn! Now THAT is rare in Asia!
Stay tuned for photos and my normal dribble about the sights and sounds around town.
One more thing…the money. It is the HK dollar. 7.80 HK $s to 1 US$. Not only is it incredible colorful, but the bank notes are issued by individual banks! My first trip to an ATM gave me back HSBC notes. I thought it was not real money, but some sort of script. I asked a little girl at a desk, “Is this real money?” She laughed at me and assured me it was. When I got change, all the notes were issued by different banks. The same 100 HK$ with three different designs. Only the color remains the same. Very weird. The coins are cool as well, shaped like a lotus flower.