Thursday, 17 February 2011

An interesting... fight with the temperature and queue-jumpers

It's been a wild few weeks. After escaping the snowy USA where my heart actually started beating slower because of the mid-winter freeze-fest, I was looking forward to getting back to the lovely, tropical, humid Hong Kong to defrost. Well, Simon Gear, Derek van Dam and their bunch of pointy weathertwit cronies played a nasty trick on me. Hong Kong is freezing. The temperature has hovered around 10 degrees Celsius (about 50 degrees Fahrenheit) which may sound warmer than the fortnight we pranced around northern Pennsylvania, but America actually prepares for winter.

Turns out, this city is not equipped for anything below the temperature at which you'd serve soup. Our house is as airy as a fat man after a meal of beans, but without the required warmth thereof. The wind sweeps through here and the house in its totality provides about as much protection from it as a sieve would. As we arrived back here loaded with Christmas presents but with hardly any money, a heater was a luxury in which we could only invest come pay day. So there was a three-week freeze in this house where you couldn't sit comfortably without donning a jersey, jacket, beanie and scarf while sitting beneath a duvet. I am being dead serious.

We've had three guests this year already. Michelle was the initial visitor, and her first night here - you know the one where you are supposed to be jet-lagged and tired after a 13-hour flight? Well it was an absolute shit-show. She brought two bottles of wine as a thank you present for inviting her to stay here - we chugged them down by 10.30am. The two of us then set off to explore the city and after a stroll around one of the largest shopping centres I have ever seen (I am convinced that there are more square metres of shopping space than housing in this city) we ended up on the roof of IFC which is a building (containing yet another shopping centre) on Hong Kong island - right next to a bar serving gluhwein, with a view of the skyline on Kowloon. There we sat, beneath a heater powering through our warm drinks and Peter Stuyvesants when right next to us plonked two people we'd never met before. Within three minutes the four of us had started chatting merrily away and one of the new folks, a Hongkonger who has lived in Australia for everish ended up spending the whole evening with us (and the next night, come to think of it) - she's our first proper friend in Hong Kong. The already swirlish afternoon became a cocktail-infused chaotic evening in which I distinctly remember us having our arms around each other while belting out any song we could think of. How the neighbours haven't kungfu-d us yet is beyond my comprehension.

(L to R: Michelle, Donald Duck, Me, Mike)

As all of our visitors will undergo, we dragged Michelle to Disneyland which is probably my favourite place in this city. We also dragged our second visitor, Mike's best friend Nikki, there as well and spent a night in a Disney hotel. I don't really need to describe Disneyworld to you - it's pretty much exactly what you expect. I can't do the justice that the marketing promos do. But I do find that I have way more fun there than actual children. It was even more special when we visited with Nikki as one of the rides (a slow one thank god) broke while we were on it and we had to walk through the whole thing. It's way cooler than it sounds.

We also visited Macau (some people spell it Macao) for the first time while Nikki was here and stayed over on one of the casino hotels there called The Venetian. Turns out it is the largest casino in the world, in the city that makes the most money out of casinos. Yep, Macau overtook Las Vegas as the world's biggest gambling spot - largely due to bans on gambling in Hong Kong (where only horse-racing betting is legal) and China. And The Venetian is quite simply the biggest, brightest, over-the-top building in which I have ever found myself - it's like the size of a major European airport and makes Monte Casino seem like a dirty 5-cent coin. Even the garishly lit-up Sun Coast Casino (the second ugliest building in the world, after the SABC HQ in Jozi) can't compete with what the electricity bill for The Venetian must be. We listened to a live band, then watched the Aussie Open (which, now that I think about it, must have been a replay as we saw it at something like 2.30 in the morning and we're only 3 hours off Melbourne time) and then ate meat and noodles (the Chinese equivalent of a petrol station pie or greasy London kebab) before retiring.

The following morning we ate the best dim sum I have come across since we made the move to this part of the world. Dim sum is basically Chinese tapas (although I am sure a proper foodie could provide a better explanation than that) - lots of little morsels which are shared around the table. It does get a bit hit and miss, but you have to try to find out. Pork and cabbage dumplings - good. Stewed offal - not so much. Whoever comes to Macau with us gets dragged to this superb restaurant.

Milla, another one of Mike's buddies (but I have adopted her too) was our last guest - she was only here for two nights on her way to Bali - but we managed to squeeze in a visit to Lama island. Yadda yadda it was lovely and food was good, but one of my favourite Hong Kong experiences happened here. Now, people who live in this city have a severe inability to queue. It is a complete cluster-fuck every time any semblance or order is required (although strangely enough, not regarding queuing for buses) and as we waited to board the ferry to return back to Hong Kong island we were shunted each and every way by locals trying to get to the front of the line. Well when the gate opened and everyone tore through as if there were only three seats on the boat (there are actually about 200), officials suddenly realised they had opened the wrong gate and we all had to turn around and go the other way. So all the pushers and shovers whose manners live up their own arse got stuck at the back of the queue. Call it incredibly small and pedantic - I do not care. It is the day I got one over on Hong Kong and I very publicly and verbosely let them know as we got onto the correct ferry. However, none of them shouted back so it was far less gratifying than the commuter-rage in which I engaged back in London and Joburg, when other people let you have it in return.

Other than that, I am currently job-hunting which is going about as well as, and at the pace of, the State of the Nation address. The annual Christmas waistline increase is also yet to be conquered, but it's progressing, albeit at the pace of a blood clot.

And there's beer in the fridge. So all's well.

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