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Hong Kong: Ho! The land of Dim Sum and cheap clothing...

One of the things I like most about travelling with Erica and Dylan is that we will easily go from having high tea at the Peninsula Hotel to eating absurdly hot indian food at Chuanking mansion, a well known hangout of mobsters, tricksters, peddlers of contraband, hookers and Indian restaurateurs. The Peninsula-well, the opening to Diamonds are Forever was filmed there, and the tea trade took roots in its lobby.

Erica and JF from Kowloon
A blue view of Erica's home turf

Wars were fought because of what happened in this place. Chungking's the opposite--a collection of four once-hotels that shared a common lobby. Eventually emerged elevators that only go to certain floors, people dying and and being found months later, stairwells built to connect offices on different floors (and sides) of the buildings, and about a dozen fires a year...it seems, too, that this isn't altogether odd in HK. There once was a whole quasi-city that developed, one building connected to another, across an alleyway, stairwells from 5th to 8th of different floors, one solid block of illegal constructions stretching for square miles. It is said that there were many who were born, raised, and died there, having never felt a need to emerge from within Kowloon Walled city. Stuff movies are made of...

My arrival in Hong Kong came after what would turn out to be a preview of my next business trip, with a layover in Taipei. Dylan, Erica and Geri (who was also visiting) met me at the airport station in Hong Kong's Central neighborhood.

First experience in a left-drive country leaves me convinced that there IS a wrong side of the road--screw the cultural relativism.

Dylan and I would be stayinq at what amounted to the YMCA, not in Central any more but in Wanchai. Right on the harbor, with an awesome view of Kowloon.

Hong Kong island panorama
A view of Hong Kong island from the Star Ferry

Hong Kong is a neat city--NYC with mountains and a great view. Much of this trip was also about eating. Dim sum, of course, made an appearance. Sillao chilken alsu popped up--thus teaching me exacltly why Cantonese cuisine is considered dull and unpleasant by many.

I got a chance to ride in a double-decker bus around the island, saw the ocean, bough satin sheets for a couple of friends who were getting married, ate Manchurian food, and rode what has to be the world'd funkiest way of commuting--an escalator that goes up from Central to the mid-Levels, stretching for many, many blocks.

One additional highlight that seemed to have the kind of political nose-thumbing I seem to dig involved the urinals at Felix, the swanky martini bar at the top level of the Peninsula. Free-standing pedestals are lined against a window stretching from the floor to the ceiling, facing north towards China. Somewhat of a symbollic pissing on the mainland?

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