Entry #034: Friday, September 13, 2013 (Hong Kong)

Well, today's my last day in Hong Kong. What's that? You didn't realize I was in Hong Kong right now? Well...I am. I've been here for a few days, on accident really (if you've been keeping up, you know why). I'll be heading out early in the morning to meet my dad in Beijing, but there've been a few haps in the past week that I should probably talk about. And I need to give my wine reviews. Yes, you read that right.

So, Sunday was all about biking and wining. Which is appropriate, as I was with a tour group called "Bikes & Wines". I forget if I mentioned it previously, but I definitely wanted to check out the famous Western Cape wine country, because that's one of those things you do when you're there. Now, for those who aren't aware (and thus haven't read any of this blog), I don't drink. I don't begrudge others their right to drink, but I simply choose not to myself (as I say, sobriety was a habit I picked up young, an I haven't been able to kick it since). Some people may (and in fact, did) say that this makes me a the worst kind of person to go on a wine tasting tour. On the contrary, I'd reply, I'd say it makes me the best. I have no preconceived notions, and I am brutally honest when I review an alcohol. So I thought it'd be fun!

I had to wake up pretty early, and headed off to the center of Cape Town to meet up with the group at the tourism center. I was a bit wary of parking my car on the street for what would pretty much be all day, but I was assured that it would be fine (the tourism center being a fairly well-watched part of town). Still, I must have looked like a jackass for going back to my car three or four times, just to make sure it was locked. There were about ten people total in the group - six or so of them were roughly my age, and were all here together, as they were volunteering for six weeks with kids in the townships (that is, the shanty metropolises around town). There were one guy, maybe in his forties, and two older women, both over 60 (one probably over 70). It turns out that we were actually on two different tours; most folk were on the "Platinum" tour (which made four winery stops), while I - and surprisingly enough, the two old women - were scheduled for the "Adventure" tour, which was 21km and only two stops. However, the guide decided to combine us all into the Platinum tour. I think this means I got a discount? So, that's pretty good, I guess.

We got on a train and headed out to Stellenbosch, a good hour-plus journey. As one might expect, I ended up speaking with the older folks instead of the younger folks. While the 60-or-so-year old woman was a tad on the ignorant American side, the 70+ one was a hoot. With a distinct North Carolina twang, she seemed to epitomize the "action granny" archetype, having been to over 100 countries, and seemingly having anecdotes from each (my favorite being one where a guy tried to rob her, but somehow she ended up robbing him of his camera and cash). The older guy was also good to talk to, and seemed very intelligent (I later found out he was a doctor...that made sense). Didn't really have enough chance to speak with the younger folks, but I'm sure they were all fine individuals. When we arrived in Stellenbosch, we hopped across the street to a house where our bikes were parked. After some initial instructions and preparations (during which I figured out that the gears on my bike were janky as all hell), we headed off.

I'll talk about the ride first. It was honestly not that difficult, though a few of the uphill portions got a little tiring (as uphill biking is wont to be), but nothing I couldn't handle. The gears thing, though, was annoying. You'd try to switch gears, and nothing would move. Switch again, and suddenly you'd switch two. And then occasionally they'd just lock, which made pedaling impossible. This proved a factor during this one time when I was going up a soft earthen ridge. For a brief second, I couldn't pedal, but momentum still being a factor, I basically flew over my handlebars and onto the ground. And this was before I had anything to drink! Thankfully, my pride got the worst of the damage (and even that was limited, as only one person saw me before I popped back up and started pedaling again). I also got a few "looks worse than they feel" bruises on my arms and legs, and a few pebbles gauged into my palms (I had even brought my gloves; I'm not sure why I didn't wear them). Funnily enough, by far the most painful part was a tiny, near-sand-sized pebble that was lodged in the skin of my left palm. Until I later dug it out with a needle, it hurt like hellfire whenever it so much as brushed against anything. But anyway, enough of minor injuries. The bigger issue that we all had to face is that it was a cloudy day. I had managed to have good weather for most of my activities, but today I couldn't escape the gloom. It also rained here and there, which was kind of nice when it was light - a bit refreshing even. But in the last two minutes of the trip - literally, the last two - the heavens just let loose, and we all got completely soaked. Like, my pants were transparent. Counting blessings though, it was good that kind of weather was limited to the last two minutes. It was also a good test of the water resistance of my jacket, and I'd say it passed with flying colors.

Despite the weather, it was still a very enjoyable ride, with loads of pretty views, and some interesting experiences. We ended up visiting four wineries during our trip. We ended up getting a little rushed at the end, though, because we spent way too long at this winery called Mulderbosch. (It was completely worth it, though; at this place, they had these tiny gourmet flatbread pizzas that they were pairing with the wine, which were, in most cases, better than the drinks themselves. It was the highlight of the tastings, to be sure.) We could have taken our time, but there were fewer trains on Sunday, and if we missed the train at 3:30, we'd have to wait until 7:30. And I had things I needed to do, so that wasn't gonna fly. Mostly everyone seemed to agree, and all that really happened is that we biked a little less, didn't have a proper lunch, and went to a significantly closer winery than was originally intended. But all worked out well, we dropped our bikes off in time, got on the train, and all was well.

Now, I didn't just taste all the wine at all these places. I kept notes. So, without further ado. here is the Andrew Schnorr Expert Wine Connoisseur Review Ver. 2012. (We're a bit out-of-date.)
  • Lovane Winery
    • Unwooded Chardonnay - I generally found I enjoyed white wines more than the red ones on this trip, by which I mean I didn't cringe quite as much at their taste. This is an example; it wasn't terrible.
    • Cabernet Sauvignon - I'm not actually sure what it means for a wine to be "dry", but this seemed dry. It was also pretty bitter; I didn't like it.
    • Dark Red - This actually smelled quite good (you're supposed to smell wine before you drink it; I should actually say it has a "pretty nose"). However, it tasted nasty.
    • Isikhati - The first one that I would say is actually somewhat good. Not that I'd ever drink it on my own accord, but if you were forced to drink a wine, you could do much worse.
    • "Berries Only" - Way too bitter; you can tell there are berries in there, but none of them are berries you'd enjoy.
  • Mulderbosch Winery
    • Rosé Cabernet Sauvignon - Too dry and too biting. It seemed like it didn't want me to drink it.
    • White Barrel Fermented Chardonnay - Very fruity flavor (they were clear that they had it in this acidic state where you got, I think, apple acids instead of oak acids? Or some BS like that). Actually pretty tolerable.
    • Red Blend with Shiraz - Now, I might have this and the Bordeaux confused, because they looked identical and were served simultaneously. But I think it was this one that I felt was way too spicy, and "rumbled" too much in my throat. It didn't like going down.
    • Bordeaux - Very sharp flavor (sharper than I would have liked), but it did produce a pleasing warm feeling in my chest, which would probably make this a good wine for a winter's eve.
    • Dessert Wine Sauvignon Blanc - Super sugary, legit delicious. Our tasting was actually from the last bottle in the winery, which probably was good, because I was genuinely considering buying some (and Lord knows what I would have done with it). But this was the only wine I had the entire day that I actually finished the whole glass without pouring the remainder into the table bucket. Some folks thought it was sickeningly sweet, but it was perfect for me. So it wins. It wins. So, prospective winers - if you want the Andrew Schnorr Seal of Alcohol Approval, load your alcohol with as much sugar as necessary to mask the fact it's alcohol.
  • Skilpadvlei Winey
    • Sauvignon Blanc - Actually not too terrible, but it was a bit too tart. I'd have liked it much more if it was a bit more mild.
    • Chemin Blanc - Actually one of the better wines I probably had, but still too bitter to genuinely enjoy. It also had a "sticky" feeling to it (if that makes sense) that none of the other wines had, which I don't think I enjoyed.
    • Dry Red - Bland, bland, bland. No reason to drink.
    • Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz Mix - A very fruity taste (which I enjoyed), but it felt really heavy, which really took away from the whole experience.
    • ML Joubert (House Blend) - For being a flagship wine, this stuff was really uninspired, almost as bland as the dry red. Also, it burned my throat, which I didn't enjoy.
  • Vredenheim Winery
    • Vin Sec Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz - Bitter, but the carbonation gave it a very refreshing texture. Still, if you want to be refreshed, just drink an ice-cold soda or some ice-cold water.
    • Pinotage - A pleasing amount of spice, but there was nothing there to inspire the sensations.
    • Purrrfect White Off-Dry Sauvignon Blanc - A bit too much on the tangy side, but not really that bad. Probably the best of this particular winery. Also, the most confusing (and thereby best) name of any wine.
    • Cabernet Sauvignon - Way too harsh on the throat. Like liquid sandpaper. I don't even remember the taste at this point, it was that bad.
    • Special Reserve - It was fruity, like...like rotten fruit. Seriously, it just tasted like rotten fruit. You can pay much less to get the taste of rotten fruit. Not good.
So there you go, twenty wines tasted, and of those, I give one a thumbs-up. That's significantly more thumbs-up than I was expecting going into this. But still, I'm definitely glad I did this, it was a fun day.

Shortly after I got back to Cape Town, I tried getting in contact with the jeweler who was working on my obsidian to see if I could pick it up before heading back home. Unfortunately, he didn't get back to me until I pretty much got back home, so I ended up losing the time and gas regardless. I got to his place and he showed me the bracelet. It was definitely different from what I was expecting, mainly in the leather department. He told me he'd use a "dark" leather, which I had felt would mean a near-black one. But no, this was what I'd consider mid-level color. Also, it was a thick leather; maybe I've just gotten used to my kangaroo leather hat, but this thing felt stiff. Also, there wasn't enough time to get the date engraved on there, which I was a bit disappointed with. Don't be misled, I still think it turned out pretty good; it's just different to what I had envisioned. Was it worth spending the money on it? I probably would have never bought it as-is for what I paid (remember, I'm a cheapskate), but for a custom-made reminder of my trip, I can make some exceptions.

I then went back home, where I met up with Navine and the new guy staying at the house (for about 12 hours before heading out). We went out to pick up some cheap Indian, which we brought home and ate while watching the opening bits of the second Tomb Raider movie (I found Navine's invested commentary cute). Once I was finished, I excused myself and went to my room to both pack, and to upload my Cape Town pictures to Facebook (though Facebook didn't post them like it was supposed to, so I may want to upload them again, or else nobody will ever know). Before heading to bed, I noticed I had a good amount of bandwidth left on my data plan, so I decided to use it on downloading some files while I slept. I wanted to still have a bit left for the morning, so I set my phone to turn off data usage after 19gb, and fell asleep.

Turns out, that didn't work, because my data plan was completely tapped the next morning. Whoops! That meant I'd have to navigate to the car rental place on my own the next morning. Thankfully, over the past ten days, I'd really gotten my Cape Town bearings, so I was confident. I bid my farewell to Navine and the other guests, and then headed out. I found my way to the car rental place no problem, dropped it off, and was given a ride to the airport. I thought I was clever for having returned the car without needing to fill it up, but it turns out that with every rental, they stop at the airport gas station to fill up, forcing you to pay. Oh, well. I used up some of my leftover cash, and then was dropped off. After wasting some time in the foreign exchange office (I waited in line to be told they didn't have Hong Kong dollars to trade, and realized I could get US dollars instead only after I had left, meaning I had to wait in line again), I got a quick snack, heard my plane being boarded, and then went on, to leave Africa.

Now, as per usual, some reflection. I won't go over my whole African adventure (Lord, that would take time), but I will talk about my time in Cape Town. Simply put, I like Cape Town. I have always said that there are only three major cities on Earth I enjoy (Seattle, Vancouver, San Diego). I may have to change that to four cities at this point, because Cape Town had that nice mix of sufficiently modern amenities and laid-back lifestyles which is really what I look for in a place. Also, it's a West Coast city, and no matter what the continent, the West Coast is the best coast. I am also happy that I had the chance to stay with Navine. Even though it was a little more expensive than the free apartment I could have stayed in if Lynn's friend hadn't flaked, having someone to talk to, to show me around, to provide support and advice, was wonderful. Navine was an excellent host in all regards, and from the moment I arrived, treated me like one of his dearest friends, which is an excellent quality. So that definitely helped my impression. I hope his homestay program works out well for him. And overall, I will definitely miss Cape Town. You all have my official recommendation to go there!

Now, plane flights. I'm gonna brush by these, because really, there's not much to say. I was on a plane for something like 18 or 20 hours. A couple planes, in fact. The first flight was from Cape Town to Dubai, and this one was pretty much spent watching movies. I ended up watching three - Django Unchained (I don't really like Tarantino, but this one was pretty good. Violent as hell, though; I had to warn an old English woman who saw me watching and said, "I need to watch this because it has horses." Wrong demographic entirely), Les Miserables (not anywhere as good as I was hoping, but fun to sing along with during my favorite songs, at least), and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (not as good as the original three, but a fun popcorn romp regardless). Finally, we got to Dubai, and as I was walking through the (exquisite) airport, I saw the first Starbucks I'd seen since April. I was unironically giddy at the prospect, mainly because it was a chance to use the Starbucks card I had brought with me. I ordered something and...oh, they don't accept Starbucks cards. Rats. So, I tried using my credit card. It got declined. I tried again. Declined again. Because there was a line forming behind me, I paid with my debit card, got my drink, and went on my way, confused. That is, until I connected to the airport WiFi and saw that I had an email from my bank that had the word "Fraud" in it. Goddammit, I thought. Thankfully, the WiFi was strong enough that I could set up a Skype call, so I called them. They asked me if I made a purchase at a Dubai Starbucks. I said I did, thinking that would solve the whole problem. They then asked if I had spent $800 in a Woolworths the day prior.


I think I know how it happened. Simply due to the timings involved, I think it was when I was paying for that Bikes n' Wines tour, because it was through some odd payment system Id never heard of before (Setcom, I think). Not that I'm saying they're a scam, but I think the secure system isn't as sure as they think. Whatever, the point is, somebody took my numbers, and made a new card out of it, which they've tried to use for upwards of $2,000 in expenditures. Thankfully, the bank caught it. Unthankfully, they were taking their sweet time talking to me about it, and I was late for my plane. I told them I'd have to call them back with an address to send the new card to (it'd have to be in China), and then rushed on board the plane during the final boarding call.

The next flight (from Dubai to Bangkok) was spent sleeping. That's it. We landed in Bangkok for about an hour, and then took off again. I used that time to watch the new Star Trek movie (I really wish they'd do Next Generation storylines instead; so much more interesting than the original series), and some miscellaneous TV to fill in the rest of the time. We touched down in Hong Kong about an hour behind schedule, and I was hoping that Reeve (the guy I was renting a place from) hadn't been waiting this whole time for me. Turns out, he pretty much had been, but was expecting it, so I guess he wasn't upset about it. In any case, I got through their immigration department, where I got the lamest pass I'd ever seen (really, Hong Kong, stapling a piece of paper to the passport? You can't even use adhesive?), got as much cash as I could from an ATM, met with Reeve, and he drove me to his place.

...Except he didn't. He said he was too tired to drive, so he took the bus instead. Now, I didn't mind paying him for picking me up, but I was honestly expecting a car. Oh, and he wasn't even taking me the whole way to his place, because he had other places to be. He just handed me the house keys to his place, told me what stop to get off at, and what building to go to. Then he left. They were solid instructions, but I was questioning why this required me paying him an extra fee for.

Now, I'll just get through my impressions of this guy, Reeve, and his place before talking about Hong Kong itself. I found him on this site called AirBnB, which is basically where people can rent out their rooms to travelers. I was hoping I could just do last-minute CouchSurfing, but none of the people in Hong Kong responded to me, except for one guy saying "no". So, I had to resort to paying for stuff. And there are no genuinely cheap places to stay here. So I decided to stay in the cheapest place where I could get WiFi and a private room, and it happened to be this place. But this guy is a little odd. Only 26, he actually is super well-off (because apparently he earned a ton of money working for Sony during the PlayStation 1 years), and as such, we only works six months a year (he's currently in his six-month vacation) and owns multiple properties throughout Hong Kong. But the place I'm staying at is just a room in an apartment, and it's not terribly nice, mostly because Reeve just sits around the living room in his underwear, smoking. The smell of smoke just lingers everywhere; there's even an ash tray in the bathroom. On the other hand, he loaned me a MicroSIM card, with a data plan (a slow data plan, but a data plan nonetheless) for free. So it's kind of a mixed bag. I haven't had any real interest in relating to this guy, so I'm just using his place as what it is, a place I paid to stay in.

But enough about him. What of Hong Kong itself? Well, I'll go over it point-by-point:
  • It's a big city. It's basically the Asian New York City. As such, it has all the trappings of a big city - high rises, high prices, and funny smells. To be perfectly honest, I would never go here on my own accord, just like I have no real interest in New York City. If you do prefer that kind of place, you'd probably love it here. It's just not my kind of scene.
  • They may have the best, most efficient public transportation system I've ever seen. There are stations all over the place, and their bus system and metro system both have excellent mobile apps that will basically tell you how to get anywhere you want to go. I basically have never been lacking for a means to get somewhere, and it's all run like clockwork.
  • Similarly, they have this thing called the Octopus Card (no schoolgirls involved), which can pay for seemingly anything. Public transportation, grocery stores, convenience stores, attractions, fast food places, and certain restaurants. It's really useful for just having something small to carry around.
  • Also on the topic of money, did I mention things are expensive here? 'Cause they're really expensive. Maybe being in South Africa for so long has spoiled me, but here, you'll pay upwards of $2 for a can of soda, for example. And it's a weird conversion (roughly HK$7.75=US$1), so knowing what you're paying doesn't come as naturally as in South Africa.
  • It's hot. And humid, which makes it the worst kind of hot (give me a dry heat any day). But even in the middle of the night, it doesn't go below 75 degrees. I've actually been wearing shorts and flip flops my entire time here. Does that make me weird? I don't care, it makes me comfortable!
  • If you're a struggling cartoonist, come to Hong Kong. They have cartoon characters on pretty much every sign everywhere.
  • In the downtown districts, there are signs and things hanging everywhere, just like all the stereotypical representations of it (and the Chinatown facsimiles) would suggest
  • Language-wise, I feel weird. Being a former British colony, almost everyone can speak at least some English, and almost all signs have at least some translation to them. But I feel guilty - honestly, guilty - speaking English to people. And unlike in Morocco or Spain or Italy or East Africa, I can't even say "Thank you" in their native tongue. Even after learning it, I can't. And that's partially because (and no offense at all is meant by this), I cannot stand the tonal Asian languages, like Mandarin, Cantonese, Thai, etc. Listening to them drives me completely insane. I absolutely respect them from a cultural perspective, but I cannot listen to them for more than a few minutes without needing to drown it out with my own thoughts. I don't know why. (I do enjoy Japanese, for what it's worth.) But yeah, that makes it difficult for me to speak it, which makes me in turn feel guilty for not speaking it. Like I said, weird.
  • The emphasis on sterilization and preventing germs from spreading is interesting. It makes sense, given the whole bird flu epidemic and the close proximity of everyone, but I wonder if it's possible to make a people too sterilized (I'm of the school of thought that kids should play in dirt and not use hand sanitizer to build up their immunity).
  • Overall, the place seems like it's governed to function well. It's different from Cape Town, which I felt was manicured to be a world-class city. Hong Kong is, rather, fine-tuned to be a efficiently functioning city.
So, anyway, when I got back to the apartment on the first night, I pretty much went to sleep immediately. For perhaps the first time on this entire trip, I felt jetlagged to hell. I don't even think it was that bad on my initial flight out of the US. I had no real interest in doing anything except sleeping. So I did just that. When I woke up (it's Wendesday at this point, just to keep things straight), I saw that I was already too late for the initial pick up for Chinese visas for the day, but I could still get it done by the next day if I brought it in by 1:30. So I decided to head out to get it done ASAP. I went down to the metro station, went on, and after a thirty minute ride (in which every connection was perfectly timed; so efficient) I got to the other side of town. Stepping out and finding my way to where I was getting my visa made me realize just how this place was set up. There's just a bunch of big buildings. Seriously, skyscrapers everywhere. And they're called everything from the New Mandarin Plaza (where I was going) to the Ocean View Building to Kwong Cheong House to Tong Ming Place and every other possible thing you can think of. Half of them are basically malls, the other half are basically apartment buildings, and everything is in them. Everything

After meandering around a bit, I finally found the New Mandarin Plaza, got inside and went to the ninth floor, where I found the Forever Bright Trading Company, which I've been tipped off as the best and cheapest place in Hong Kong to get a Chinese visa - only HK$1,550 for an American to get either a single-entry or double-entry visa (US$200). What a bargain! At least the process was simple. I just went in, showed them my passport, filled out a couple sections of a form, and then was told to come back the next day after 4pm. I had decided to get a double-entry visa, not because I planned to go twice, but because, hey, there's no price difference, so why not. In any case, on my way back, I decided to get something for lunch. And that's when I saw the McDonalds. I remembered my disgusting vow to try the local fare in every country, so here we go. I ended up getting a Shogun burger, and got an extra value meal deal of it, because then you get seaweed fry seasoning. The Shogun burger was pretty uninspired - just a normal hamburger with lettuce and Teriyaki sauce (and mayonaise, for some ungodly reason). The seaweed seasoning for the fries was...well, I like seaweed, but I could hardly tell that this was seaweed. It just seemed like green seasoning salt. Overall, unimpressed. Step up your game, Hong Kong. I was considering getting a McCafe tea (with a Chinese symbol written into the foam), but didn't for some reason.

I then went back to the apartment...I think. If I did anything, it didn't make enough of an impression on me for to remember it. But I went back and, letting a half-naked Reeve sleep on his couch, his cigarette still burning in the ashtray, tried getting myself organized, which was tricky because the WiFi in Reeve's apartment is abysmal (and because I have yet to find his router, I wonder if it's actually his, or just some neighbor he's piggybacking on). I looked into potential activities for the week, including going to a theme park (they have a Disneyland here, though apparently it's worse than California Disneyland, and a place called Ocean Park). I decided to hold off any theme parks until Friday, and spend the first part of Thursday going to this place called "The Peak" (which is one of the highest points in Hong Kong, with views and things to see and such) before picking up my visa. Later, I went out to the local malls for dinner (for which I got the cheapest stuff I could find) and to shop at one of the local supermarkets, where my main objective was some breakfast cereal. I got back to the apartment, played some games, and when Reeve came back home, I realized it was past midnight. I genuinely don't know what had happened to the time. It got worse, though, as I somehow ended up staying awake until 4am. I'm blaming the jetlag.

I got up the next morning about 10:30 and almost immediately headed out. I hopped on the metro and made my way to the central metro station (conveniently enough, called "Central"). I hopped off and took a brief walk to the "famous" tram, which would take me to the top of the hill. When at the ticket office, I wondered why the tickets were so pricey. Turns out, the particular line I was in was for the tram, plus a visit to the top viewing point, plus a visit to the Madam Tussauds wax museum that they had up there for some reason.

...Sure, why not?

I bought the ticket, then went up. Once I got to the top, I immediately went into the wax museum. Oddly enough, it was one of those things that was so stupid that the stupidity actually made it fun. First of all, I didn't know who half of the people there were, as there obviously was a big Asian celebrity presence there. Second, Jackie Chan had an almost demigod-like presentation, which I guess confirms that they like Jackie Chan in the Chinese-speaking regions. Third, it's a goddamn wax museum, so of course it's gonna be stupid. Fourth, I ironically enjoyed seeing people unironically enjoying themselves there. I used it as an opportunity to practice my artsy photography (which I think I'm getting better at), and then headed out to the rest of the place. There definitely were plenty of great views to be had of the city. The problem was, they were views of a city. While I do enjoy seeing skylines lit up at night, I haven't really been a big fan of looking at cities for many years. I considered having lunch with a view, until I saw the restaurant with the best view - Bubba Gump's Shrimp. While I have nothing against that place, it's the last place I would want to eat at in Asia. Also, probably too rich for my blood. So instead, I ate at a cheap noodle place (Mak's Noodle, in case you plan to visit Hong Kong for some reason) with no view. I then continued walking up and down the place, got the most overpriced gelato in history ($5.50 for a single, pathetic scoop), took a stroll into some of the more foresty areas (at least, the places that didn't have access denied), and then decided to head down.

Once I got back to the lower level, I figured that I'd walk to the New Mandarin plaza, since I still had about an hour left. So, I mapped myself out a route, an got going. Seeing as I was on Hong Kong Island, this was also a good opportunity to ride on one of their ferries, which was a nice, smooth experience. I then walked the rest of the way to the place, stopping only to buy myself a much needed bottle of water (did I mention it was hot here), and got in to the place at about 4:15. I handed them my money, and they gave me back my passport, Chinese visa included. I took a second to look at it, this thing that had cost me so much money and caused so much trouble. I could hear the person at the other counter (from Ireland, I'd guess) complaining about how difficult this whole thing was, so at least I knew I wasn't alone in this. I thanked the folks, walked back to the metro station, and went back to the apartment. I decided when I was there that I had spent enough money in Hong Kong, especially for a place I had no intention of going in the first place. So, I decided that I wasn't going to go to the theme park on Friday (opting instead on writing this blog entry). I was basically over Hong Kong after only a couple days of being here. Again, I think it's just because I don't like big cities.

Later that night, I got some curry at a Thai place in the nearby mall (which, if you got it as takeaway, you didn't have to pay tip, and you got a 20% discount; now that's my kind of place!), got home, and then just tried to keep to myself until going to bed. I had a number of dreams last night, three in particular which stood out. I don't really remember two of them (although one involved me and three other guys riding strange-looking, non-horse, maybe-bird-like steeds through a field at one point), but one of them was very vivid and somewhat profound, even though I'm not sure I understand why. I think I have to percolate on it for some time to really figure it out, but it involved me being possessed and shooting people I care about, except that instead of killing them, the bullets gave eternal youth. That's just the setup, though, the poignant part happened after I went back in time (somehow) to stop myself from doing it. Maybe after I've given the dream some additional thought will I tell it in full detail.

In any case, those dreams kept me in bed until noon, which is fine (as my mom says, "if you sleep long, it's because you needed to sleep long). When I got out, Reeve introduced me to his wife, which I found weird, because he previously introduced me to his fiance (a different woman). I don't know if this woman was his ex-wife, or if he's just a polygamist, but I said my hellos, went out to get a quick bite to eat, and then came back to basically just spend the day relaxing, writing, and staying in front of a fan. Unfortunately, I only had two options for my flight from Hong Kong to Beijing, one of which was really early, and one of which was really late. I had booked the early one (because I've already missed several days with my dad, so why miss one more?), and now was beginning to see the ramifications, as I was going to have to wake up to catch a 4am bus. Yipee.

Now, don't let my presentation of Hong Kong turn you off from visiting. Unless you're like me and don't like big cities. Then, by all means, let it turn you off. Reeve asked me when I was going to visit Hong Kong next. "Next year?" he asked. I laughed and said I had to earn money to travel again, especially to a place this expensive. But really, there's no real appeal for a guy like me. If I want to go to a big city, I'll just go to New York. And even then, I'd rather just go to Seattle. Or Vancouver. Or San Diego. Or - as of now - Cape Town.

So that's that. And now, China-bound!

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