Hong Kong I: Flying Rats … Delicious

December 8, 2001

Game Boy Advance: US$60

Pirated Games: US$4 each.

Sucking the brains out of the back of a fried pigeon head: Priceless.

Hey Everybody!

Life is good over here on the other side of the planet: The weather’s pretty decent (compared to cold and rainy portland at least), the people are pretty nice (there’s a LOT of them), and the city is amazing.

Hong Kong is a pretty spectacular city, by any account. The first thing that really blew my mind was the housing situation: Everywhere you look are 34 story housing towers – hundreds of them, lined up and clustered like gigantic silos. Each one holds between 340 and 600 families, and I guess it’s the only way you can fit several million people on this island. Interestingly enough, most of the island appears to be too mountainous to build skyscrapers on, so there’s an interesting network of several mile long tunnels and nifty looking modern suspension bridges connecting everything together.

The family I’m staying with is the family of one of Poncho’s friends from school – they live on the 34th floor of one of these towers, in an apartment the size of, well, it’s quite a bit smaller than a typical high school classroom, and a little bit bigger than my bed room at home. Bedrooms are 7′ by 10′ closets (there’s two of them), the bathroom is the same size, and the kitchen is just large enough for a mini appliance stack and a counter top. The crazy part is that this apartment cost them roughly $400,000 US dollars – it’s standard fare for an upper middle class family in Hong Kong.

They’re tremendously nice people – I have the feeling I’m going to come back at least 15 pounds heavier, because they insist on stuffing us to the gills every night with fried [insert ANY meat here] dishes with [insert flavor] sauces. No, I wasn’t kidding about the pigeon brain. Zifirlah, Poncho’s buddy from school, has been taking us on tours of the city, which is great because he’s a young adventurous guy who speaks the local languages and likes to do things off the beaten path.

I get a kick out of the transportation systems here. The busses are double deckers, which makes public transportation a LOT more exciting – sitting in the front on the top deck while the driver below navigates the narrow streets at harrowing speeds is an experience that would probably cost $10 a pop at an amusement park .. yet only costs about $1.50 (US) for as much as you can handle. They have “Octopus Cards” for paying public transit fees – they’re magnetic cards (like key cards) that you put in your wallet and wave at a sensor at a bus/train station to pay your fare. I have no idea why they’re called Octopus Cards, other than the people here seem to be preoccupied with tentacled creatures.

The food is good – although they seem to have issues with identifying animals. For example, the lines between turtle and fish, and frogs and chickens, seem to be a bit blurred. For example: A creature that looks like a turtle by any account, except for having a slightly softer shell, is actually a fish. It has four retractable legs and a head, and a shell it hides inside of when you poke it. There are no gills. Yet somehow it is a fish. Funny.

On the non-meat side of things, there’s lots of cool fruits that would be COMPLETELY unrecognizable in the States. The “dragon fruit” is a neon pink color with crazy green and yellow wing things poking out of it. When you cut it open, it’s got a grey pulp with lots of little black seeds – kind of like a poppyseed muffin – and it tastes like a mild kiwi fruit. There’s also the “big pineapple” which is about the size of my torso, but contains little fist sized hunks of fruit with a big seed inside. I can’t describe how it tastes, other than saying artificial. Very weird, but pretty good!

Yesterday, Poncho, Zafirlah, and I went and applied for Chinese passports. Apparently, China is “crazy.” That’s the only description we can get out of anyone – they make weird hand jestures, roll their eyes, and say “It’s just CRAZY!” I’m looking forward to it.

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