Hong Kong

June 2015

June 3rd

Flying in from Melbourne where I had been staying for the last week after a conference. I had spent about three hours procrastinating with arranging my suitcase and cleaning up the flat instead of calling to arrange a taxi pick-up. I was convinced it would be painful and horrible but turned out to be such a smooth experience and I was done with that in just about two minutes.

Still I didn't trust the taxi would show up ("did I spell correctly the name of the street? what if the taxi shows up elsewhere? why don't they have proper very finely granular post codes in Australia?" etc), but it did show up.

It was way too early and I was way too sleepy. Drank a coffee before checking in. I didn't need to check in my luggage as it was small and light again that it could be brought to the cabin but I was so sleepy and didn't want to be carrying it around the terminal. Laziness it's OK on holidays!

It was also the first time I flew with Qantas so I didn't know what to expect. The only thing I was wishing for, apart from an upgrade, but I knew it wouldn't happen for various reasons, was that the experience was better than the Cathay Pacific flight I took when I came into Melbourne. That was utterly gross, so it didn't take much to make it better, I thought, and hoped.

The flight was quite pleasant. Instead of a grossly disgusting woman which spent the 9 hours farting and talking to herself as in the previous flight, I had a hygiene obsessed small woman now on my left side. So much better! I think she might also have taken some sort of sleeping pills that left her dozing, because I asked her to let me get out to the toilet and she seemed dazed, and put her legs slightly out of the way as if that was a great effort. I pointed to her earphones which were connected to the entertainment system in the seat in front of her, and she half-smiled me back. I pointed again--did she expect me to duck UNDER them? she finally got the point and removed them so I could awkwardly get to the aisle. JEEZ some people. But apart from that, it was quite OK.

On arrival I was disappointed that I didn't get a stamp on the passport! They have stopped stamping your passport and now give you a small label with the info they used to stamp on the passport. This is bullshit! am I supposed to keep the thing? why are they not stamping my passport, aaaah!?

Then I did something very stupid. I used Google Maps to find how to reach my hotel and didn't read the whole instructions. If I had read the whole thing I would have realised that they were super inefficient, but I didn't. So I ended up buying a ticket to Tsing Yi instead of Mong Kok. And there I was on the station and unable to find any of the shuttle buses to hotels. Boo me.

I was too tired to try and figure out how to get an Octopus card so I just took some cash out of an ATM and boarded a taxi. And turns out the driver didn't spoke lots of English, and didn't understand lots of English either. He brought me to the wrong hotel and proudly declared: HERE! I said "no, no, it's not here. It's in MONG KOK!" while trying to make it sound as Chinese as I could. He was at a loss. I showed him my phone with Google Maps. He couldn't read with his glasses and had to take them off to read--I thought we would never make it to the place and I kept checking the map to make sure we didn't end up somewhere else weird, but he finally made it. PHEW.

Check-in was very ceremonial and they started showing me around and offering me drinks and all I wanted was a shower and eat something because I was super starving, so after a few champagne sips I left for my room and not only had a shower, but also a bath. So good after the long trip!

I walked to a nearby shopping mall and ended up having Japanese curry. Just... don't ask. I was very hungry. After that I kept trying to wander but also fighting the intense heat and the huge temperature contrast my body was experiencing, as it was starting to be winter in Melbourne (Southern Hemisphereeee) and it had been 9 degrees when I left. And there I was out at night and it was 32 degrees (Celsius, of course). It felt like if someone had dropped an indecently warm and damp blanket over me, and it was very suffocating.

I found the famous Ladies Market, but the heat made the experience utterly unbearable. All the smells of the cheap plastic and fake leather were just so strong. I left half way, pretending not to hear any of the calls of the sellers that kept saying "hey, hey lady!" when I walked by. After all, I have no need for cheap knockouts of designer bags--I think both the copies and the originals are pretty tacky and horrible anyway.

Found a place that sold Coconut juice with Sago and I think those were jelly bubbles? Anyway I drank it and went back to the hotel, then I dropped "dead" and woke up at 6 AM because of course... jetlag and Melbourne was 2 hours ahead so my body thinks 6 is a good time.

June 4th

Not that I would complain ... too much. It was cool because it gave me the chance to have breakfast almost alone in the lounge. There was only a couple of tourists apart from me.

Breakfast having had, I then made it back to my room where I decided what I wanted to do today. I decided I'd try and go to the outlets we accidentally found in the 2008 visit, when coming back from the Giant Buddha Monastery. I have a few things I needed buying so maybe I could buy them cheaper there.

I bought my Octopus card at the station today. I fucking hate returning them each time. I am thinking about keeping it for next time, but then I also think about the deposit value. I don't know what to do! Ahhh.

The site says the outlet opens at 10 but what it doesn't tell you is that most of the stores won't open until 11am.

After this I came back to my hotel and decided to try Ming Court. I had the Dim Sum set menu. It was quite yummy except for the last dish--what is with that dry, tasteless rice? I didn't get the point of that. I thought they had ran out of things to show maybe. Anyway the dessert was good, so that compensates.

I also went to PMQ afterwards. It was cool to see local designers' work but it was a bit intimidating to enter the shop to see. I am so used to more impersonal settings...

Then wandering around the Central district. I hadn't noticed on my previous visits but there are so many Westerners there, compared to Mong Kok.

Back to the hotel and here I am...

June 5th

June 6th

June 7th

Extremely long breakfast.

Pool: 2.5 hours.

Then a visit to Din Tai Fung in Tsim Sha Shui, a dim sum restaurant they had recommended me on the basis that it would be OK with non-Chinese speakers. They were right! I had much dim sum. My stomach was pleased.

I then tried to find some sweet dessert but couldn't find anywhere. I ended up walking to that long and disconcerting shopping mall in front of the Silvercord shopping mall (which housed Din Tai Fung). There I got lost and also frustrated with how slow people walked. At some point I just left the building and walked outside towards Avenue of Stars. I considered taking the Star Ferry for a brief second, but I realised that it being week-end it was busier than usual so I decided otherwise.

I walked all the way down the Avenue, then back, and found a group of youngsters playing music. They kept insisting that people subscribed to their YouTube and Facebook pages!

I didn't last much more than that. I had a look at that iSquare shopping mall because it was new (since I had been in that area) but I didn't see anything interesting, so I avoided the "rolex and handbags ma'am" touts for the last time and went down the MTR station.

June 8th


Something like: "sleep in" i.e. until about 8.30 am, I think, then breakfast. Go back to the room and draw rooftops from my window while I digest the food. Change into pool attire and go to the pool area but get intercepted by the reception at the Spa and being directed to fill in a form for the spa treatment I had booked for 1.30pm.

I got asked several questions in order to determine my "element", which they would use during the treatment. As it turns out I needed more than one element so I had to smell various oils, all of which, except one, smelled vaguely the same to me because I had a blocked nose. The only one that did smell different was something like lemon, and I said NO to that one, because it reminded me to some floor cleaning product I used once. I would not like to smell like that. So I ended up choosing the first one.

I was then given a tour of the facilities which I wasn't given on the previous days as the people in reception didn't seem very interested in doing so (boo). And finally left free to go to the pool! FINALLY!

It wasn't as busy as yesterday, which was really cool, considering that yesterday it wasn't even THAT busy compared to how busy hotel pools can get. There was only one family with kids and they weren't the yell out of your lungs variety. They stayed at one end of the pool and I dabbled on the other end.

Then I lounged under the sun intervals... and at some point the waiter brought me a water bottle, looking very concerned. It seems people here are really worried about the sun effects. If they went to Spain and saw the German tourists spending the whole morning laying on a deck without even moving to go to the toilet...!

Treatment time approached and I left earlier because I wanted to do the "three waters" they suggested. It consisted on steamy sauna first, then dry sauna, and finally a bath on a 42 degree small pool, with colder showers in between. This was a bit of a challenge because I thought I wouldn't cope with any of these but I made it! Although not the full 20 minutes each that she suggested---I had to leave the dry sauna after four minutes! I could never be Finnish...

So that done I changed into the "spa attire" and went downstairs, and waited until my therapist showed up. It was a bit of a challenge to get her accent but we managed to communicate.

Since I rarely do any Spa visits, I had chosen a long treatment. I thought: why not? It included scrub, full body massage and facial treatment. I am pretty sure I fell asleep several times while it happened, or as some of my friends would describe it: I was chill as fuck.

I was also incredibly hungry. I think I spent the last 30 minutes thinking about where did I want to have lunch. Turns out my therapist was from Thailand, and I was craving some curry, so I asked her if she knew any close by Thai restaurant and she suggested me one tucked inside a weird building I would have never thought of getting myself into. It was cheap and cheerful! So pretty cool :-)

After that I went to buy postcards and I ended up finding that the mall I've been to all these days actually has a few more floors on top and I hadn't seen them before because you have to use another escalator. The architecture here disorients me a great deal...

Then something weird happened. I found two pairs of sneakers that I liked, and a shop assistant that could communicate with me (to find my number) and... I ended up binge buying the two of them. SNEAKEEEERS!

I still didn't have postcards! But oh the surprises, I found a shop that sold miniatures of cars and other means of transportation, and they also sold postcards of means of transportation from Hong Kong. The Star Ferry postcards feature the Victoria Harbour which is the most iconic Hong Kong view, so BAM! I could tick that item out of my list!


I didn't do much more after that, other than checking the rest of shops and buying a proper neck pillow--just in case I don't get upgraded on the flight back, and we know it would be quite a stretch of luck to get upgraded TWICE, but here's hoping...!

June 9th

Semi lazy day:

semi lazy breakfast and lounging in the pool in the morning, then showering and catching the metro to Causeway Bay to see how had it changed (if at all) since the last time I was there.

Actually I ended up going for lunch first, at the Ajisen Ramen in the shopping mall in front of the hotel I stayed last. It had indeed been changed quite a bit--for the worst. It used to feel more secluded, and the waiters felt nicer, more trying to please customers etc, but now the layout is more "open plan" and the waiters felt blunter.

That said, I was quite hungry, so I liked the food. I had the "extreme tender rib" ramen and some of those chicken with cheese croquettes. Although those seemed a bit under-cooked for my tastes.

Then a stroll around the park. I was thinking of visiting the Causeway Bay shelter again but I saw there were some sort of works happening and the pathway was closed, so with that and the heat I didn't feel like doing the extra effort, and entirely gave up on the shelter.

I made my way towards the Starbucks where I was meeting some people from Mozilla Hong Kong. I was early but I decided to enter anyway because it was so warm outside and pleasantly chill inside.

After a while they arrived and we chatted about all the things. Then they walked me to the place for the next meetup I was attending. NON STOP! It felt weird to talk in English somewhat fluidly and being understood for the first time in almost a week, and I think my brain was non-working and unable to do it successfully for the first hour.

We went for dinner to another Thai place, called Chili club. It was pretty decent! And I would have never thought of going to that restaurant on my own since it wasn't on a ground floor and very visible, etc.

I was tired and really looking forward to a night of rest, it looked promising but at 2 AM I was woken up by what sounded like a group of people having a party or whatever in the nearby room, in Chinese---so I didn't even consider knocking on their room. I called reception and, despite my confusion, I transmitted them what I was experiencing. Thankfully the noise disappeared within about five minutes. But what were they thinking!? Jeez, some people...!

June 10th

I not only got asleep again but also managed to "sleep in" for a while i.e. I woke after 8 AM. Success!

Somewhat lazy breakfast and then I went to the room to try and pack as much as possible while I digested the food, and made my way to the pool. But it was full of people being annoying so I gave up on swimming, and decided to lounge. Which didn't really work out well because there was so many gross old men a) observing me (why?) and b) having loud conversations. So instead of it being a relaxing environment it was really unnerving.

I went downstairs to the (women) sauna etc with the hope that I could escape the unwelcome male gaze, and what I found was a bunch of women talking loudly. SIGH goodbye to chilling out... I went to the steam room anyway and tried to convince myself that it was OK, that my brain could ignore all them, and tried to focus and bla bla bla. But it is SO HARD, and why wouldn't they just shut up for the love of everything that is holy!?

Another one of them had left the sauna room open after placing her bathing suit there (to dry it, I guess). What even is wrong with them!? (Answer: all!)

Of course they left shortly before I left too. Yay, phenomenal timing.

I showered and finished packing all that was left. Magically I made everything fit in my suitcase! MAGICALLY! Checked out and had lunch at a place nearby. I thought I was going to a dim sum place but it ended up being a Taiwanese restaurant. I don't understand anything anymore.

I then tried to have a nice lazy afternoon in a cafe that seemed quiet, but then two old men showed up and sat on the table near me. Then two more joined them. And another one, and then a family, and I left because they were so annoying and noisy.

And here I am in the hotel lounge looking forward to the moment in which I go to the airport and then board the plane and then reach London finally.

I think I've got enough holidays for a while, arghh. Next time I need to book less than a week.