Tag Archives: Hong Kong

The One With A Great Wednesday Morning

The One With A Great Wednesday Morning

Three things happened to make my Wednesday morning extraordinarily good.

#1 Instead of the usual lethargy and dread waking up every morning, my head was buzzing with the business idea I cooked up last night, and I am all geared to make that a reality

#2 I overpaid the taxi driver twenty bucks, and he horned after me to return the extra. How gratifying. Usually I am the one who return extra change to sellers

#3 Decided to give Pacific Coffee a try when my favorite Starbucks closed down. Was checking in and telling my friend I took his advice… only to turn around and saw him walking into the same outlet.

All in all, a good day. Life is made of small moments like this.

(Photo Credit)

The One With The Idiotic Taxi Driver

Dear Mr. Taxi Driver,

I am writing to express my complete dissatisfaction with your service rendered to me this morning as I was rushing to work.

When you turned into a new route before making the recommendation, you left me no choice but to agree. When the traffic crawled to a complete stop, you didn’t have the courtesy to turn off one of your many blaring speakers; the radio, the taxi station and your own music.

And then the traffic moved, and yet you took the longer route through some of the main streets of Causeway Bay, before dropping me 100 metres away from where my destination is.

I would like to inform you that the fare I paid you, which was double than what I usually paid for, is cursed.

So, fuck you, bastard, for the bad start to my Monday.

Yours sincerely,
Razlan

(Photo Credit)

The One With The (Somewhat New) Brand Hong Kong

The One With The (Somewhat New) Brand Hong Kong

It seems that there were some backlashes from the online community on the newly redesigned “Brand Hong Kong” movement. To the uninitiated, this is a government branding campaign to attract talent, investment and… something else which I couldn’t remember, to Hong Kong.

(The fact that I couldn’t remember the third factor says something about the campaign, which was under heavy spotlight recently, intentionally or not).

Well, I like to think I am a talent to Hong Kong, and decided to take a look at the campaign objectively.

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The One With The Lunar New Year

Chinese New Year Props @ Times Square, Hong Kong

It is time of the year when you avoid the throngs of shopping-deprived aunties in town, deftly sparing yourself from the insanity caused by festive tunes on incessant repeats, and wish it is still Christmas.

I was browsing through the archive of my blog – a stroll down memory lane if you will – to recall how I spent the previous Chinese New Years. Apart from the homage I paid to my sister last year, the last few years have been spent in Singapore.

Not that I hated going back to Malaysia, mind you. But since hardly any of my family members was at home, and the bus tickets were astronomically priced, it made more sense to return only when the madness subside… and when gastronomical meals were cooked and ready for my inspection, hehe.

Now that I am in Hong Kong, it is even more difficult for me to return home, be it now or later. I have to think hard what I could do here – new friends (the few of them) will be busy with their families, and many places I frequent would be closed. I guess it is inevitable for me to spend time at home and cook for myself, seeing that I am still a single swinging bachelor at this time of the year, every year.

But hey, I am not complaining! Sometimes it is great to have some me-time, and seasons like this is as good as any others.

Have a great lunar new year, everyone. May the Tiger year ahead be a roaring one for you!

The One With The Police

My head buzzed with too much beer. It was only 9 p.m. at night and already I was hallucinating of a long hot shower and a comfy bed.

“Please, take me to Sheung Wan, Western Market,” I slurred to the cab driver.

I was at Jordan, which is at Kowloon side of Hong Kong. To get back to where I live, the cab would need to take the underwater tunnel.

The cab driver took a quick look at me on his rearview mirror, and after he was satisfied that I won’t puke in his cab anytime soon, he promptly turn on his meter a full five seconds before the damn cab started to move.

“Sheung Wan, ah? Difficult to get there. Got road block. Many police”

For a moment, my heart stopped beating. Police? What? Did my apartment catch fire?

Sense came knocking a few seconds too late for my liking, but they did eventually. I wouldn’t be so unlucky, would I?

“Ah, police…” I slurred. Fighting down a sudden nausea, I ventured, ” Why are there police?”

“Demonstration. Lots of people near the town hall”

And he was right. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that Central had suddenly become a car park for police vans. There were many of them lying around, with throngs of policemen swarming the place. They outnumbered the placard-carrying demonstrators 5-to-1, easily.

Maybe I was having double vision – I was literally seeing through a layer of beer – but some of them were even carrying rifles and stick. The police, I mean. You would think the Taliban were suspected to be in attendance, at the very least.

But I reached home in record time. My journey was smoother than usual, all things considered, except for that few extra seconds the cab driver and I gawked at the debacle.

Later that night I discovered the reason behind the protest.

I should really fix my TV at home and watch the news more often. One should at least be aware of the society he lives in, shouldn’t he?

From Hong Kong to Budapest via Prague

And so the journey of a lifetime begins. Ok, so not really the journey, but close enough nonetheless. It was my second trip to a wintry Europe, in the chilling month of December. Because of my work, I had to squeeze visits to three cities within ten days.

But hey, I am a hardy traveler, nothing can faze me!

My flight to Amsterdam on Air France

The journey begins at Hong Kong, where I took the flight to Prague on Air France. As I was checking in, I told the attendant that my knapsack sometimes comes off, because of the silly, unsecured zippers. You know what? She offered to wrap my entire backpack in a plastic bag, so the whole thing remain intact during my long flight.

How nice of her! An extra brownie point to Air France! Or maybe it was the staff if KLIA. Haha.

Transit at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

The journey to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, where I had a 3-hour transit, took approximate 12 hours. It was an excruciating 12 hours. I am not sure why, but usually I love long flights. Maybe the fact that Air France was nothing compared to Singapore Airlines which made me feel shortchanged. Kinda, anyway.

Starbucks at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

The transit at Amsterdam was over quicker than I thought. I spent a good portion of my time having my usual Starbucks (grande-sized Americano, extra shot, with a little milk) and writing postcards to some special people, before heading to the gate where I was to board the KLM CityHopper enroute to Prague!

KLM CityHopper: From Amsterdam to Prague

The journey from Amsterdam to Prague took a little over an hour (hence the CityHopper, see?), and after a hassle free checkout from Prague International Airport, I was on Czech soil! For real! For a moment I couldn’t believe that I am really in Europe… until the biting chill hit me squarely in the face. How welcoming, how nice. Oh, didn’t I tell you I love winter?

My first bus ticket in Prague!

Anyway, from Prague airport I needed to purchase a bus ticket (me! taking a bus! ha!) to make my way on bus 119 to Dejvická Metro Station, the very first station on Prague Metro Line 2, which can then take me to city centre. The journey was terrifying… for someone who can’t speak Czech, and the English announcement in the bus was as good as being in a total foreign language. But in the end I made it to the metro station with minimal fuss.

At Praha - Holešovice Train Station

From Dejvická Metro Station, I made my way to the second largest train station in Prague, the Praha – HoleÅ¡ovice. When I was doing my research prior to the trip, I was worried sick that I won’t understand the language and won’t be able to find my way to the station, despite having my faithful Lonely Planet with me. What do I know, right? The journey to the train station was as hassle-free as taking the MTR in Singapore.

I should really be more confident in my own ability navigating in strange land.

In the Neighbourhood of Holešovice

Since I have about five hours before my train ride to Budapest, I decided to take a short tour around the neighbourhood of HoleÅ¡ovice. HoleÅ¡ovice nestles inside the big bend of the Vltava, and runs west. It’s bisected by a major rail line and highway into distinct eastern and western halves. For decades, HoleÅ¡ovice was badly neglected. It was long considered he “German” area of he city and became rundown… but all that changed in 2002, when the Vltava flood inundated the low-level areas around the river, which prompted massive injection of development funds into the neighbourhood.

At the Exhibition Ground of Výstaviště

Holešovice is home to the vast exhibition grounds known as the Výstaviště. Many of the buildings were built to house the 1891 Jubilee exhibition and are still impressive in the faded-glory kind of way. These include the Prague Pavilion and the grand, Art Nouveau Palace Industry.

In the Neighbourhood of Holešovice

Sadly though, the VýstaviÅ¡tÄ› grounds have been allowed to fall into disrepair and look a little shabby these days. Some saving grace can be found in form of lovely trees and hidden garden pathways, but I didn’t linger in the area for very long.

Bohemia Bagel at Holešovice

Soon it was time for me to find some food (which I did at this lovely Bohemia Bagel), but on the way there I met my first crook! Actually, he didn’t look like a crook at all. All he did was to speak to me in Czech, and since obviously I don’t speak the language, he asked me if I speak English, to which I affirmed. Then he asked me for an Euro or two for food. Thing is, this young man looked perfectly normal to me. His clothes wasn’t tattered, his face wasn’t smudged, his eyes not all baggy and dark. But truth is I was too startled by my first encounter that I just shook my head and quickly walk away.

Actually, I should bought the guy lunch. It wouldn’t be too bad, would it? Anyway.

Bohemia Bagel at Holešovice

On to my first meal in Europe! I ordered this humongous portion of burger, together with a glass of mulled wine. It was also here I started my updating frenzy on my Facebook, where I post some nice photos with description on what I have done for the day. It was also here I got confused with the damn currency and left behind almost 50% in tips. The waitress must be damn happy!

On EuroRail enroute to Budapest, an 8-hour journey

It was getting dark, time for me to board my train going towards Budapest. A horrific journey, that was. Not only when the train started to move that an announcement was made about the train not having a dining car “due to safety reason”, when I only have a half-drunk bottle of water on me for a freaking 8-hour journey. The heavily accented announcements made at the several hundreds of stops did not ally my fear that I might just missed out Budapest.

It was a ride I endured in pure misery, not being able to sleep well, and it was only then I realised I have traveled for 30 hours without a shower. Yuck!

At Keleti Pályaudvar Train Station

But what do you know? Soon I have arrived at Keleti Pályaudvar train station. Hungry, tired, sleepy… and very lost. The whole place was very dimly lit and suspicious character was loitering around. I can’t find an ATM to draw Hungarian Forints and the metro station attendant can’t speak a word of English. Being panicked was an understatement of the night, but like all seasoned traveler will tell you, everything will work out in the end. And I like to call myself one, so yes, by midnight, I was safely tucked in bed :)

Click here to view all my photos from that 30-hour journey from Hong Kong, via Amsterdam, to Prague and finally ended up in Budapest!

Christmas is in the air

Christmas in Hong Kong

This is the season of jolly giving, fa la la la la la…

Being in Hong Kong as the city prepares itself for the Christmas season is like watching an old damn putting up her glitziest jewelery for that one final ball. Nothing but the best for her guests.

I am glad that I will be in Hong Kong for the festive period, although probably I will be seeing snow in Europe right before that.

And if you are wondering what I would like, I would really love one of these. Or better still, engage them for me.

I don’t mind being in the queue.

Winter in Hong Kong

Did you miss me? I miss blogging. No, unlike bears, I don’t hibernate during winter time. That’s because I am no bear. And I don’t care if you think I look like one.

Winter in Hong Kong

Winter time is fast approaching in Hong Kong. It gets dark by 5 p.m., so it’s always good news for night owls like me. In the blink of an eye, I have been in Hong Kong for half a year. That’s six months. Six months of roller coaster rides, of successes and failures, of ruined plans and shocking surprises.

Just like the weather, when it gets cold, you keep your singlets and berms, and take out the jackets and scarves. So when life threw you lemons, you roll with the punches, keep living and be happy.

At the end of it all, a sweet life is made out of moments like these.

An Island Experience in Cheung Chau

If you are like me who grew up watching Hong Kong TVB Cantonese drama series, undoubtedly you would have come cross the name of the place “Cheung Chau“. Ever since I have moved to Hong Kong, more than twenty years after my TVB-influenced childhood days, I had always wanted to visit this island, one of the very few inhabited outlying islands of Hong Kong.

Today was the day I made my own wish come true.

The Streets of Cheung Chau

Cheung Chau may look tiny on Hong Kong map, but it has far more to offer than it appears. With coastal trails, beaches, small rural valleys and temple-dotted villages, Cheung Chau boasts plenty to see and do in a day; and plenty to eat once you have seen and done.

The Fishing Village at Cheung Chau

After a 45-minute journey from Central Ferry Pier No. 5 (costing some HKD12), I arrived at Cheung Chang at 10 a.m. in the morning. From afar, the waterfront of Cheung Chau looked like something out of an European postcard. Quaint-looking buildings lined the waterfront, while multi-colored fishing boats bobbed up and down with the gentle waves.

San Hing Praya Street, Cheung Chau

You’ll hit the main street of Cheung Chau, simply known as the Praya, once you come out from the ferry pier. From here I turned left, walking along the waterfront being snap-happy (Cheung Chau is among the last fishing communities in Hong Kong, and is definitely the largest) towards my first destination, which was some 200 metres away.

At Pak Tai Temple, Cheung Chau

Pak Tai Temple is the oldest temple in Cheung Chau. Every April/May, this temple is the focus of the annual Cheung Chau Bun Festival, which is a dedication to the Taoist deity Pak Tai, translated as the “Supreme Emperor of the Dark Heaven”.

At Pak Tai Temple, Cheung Chau

Legend has it that the early settlers of Cheung Chau brought an image of Pak Tai with them from Guang Dong. When the statue was carried through the village, Cheung Chau was spared the plague that has decimated the populations of nearby island. The temple was a dedication to the deity, built some years after the incident.

Tricycle for Rent in Cheung Chau

From here, you can approach one of the smaller shops in front of the temple to rent a bicycle. I rented one (no, not the tricycle above, but that would have been fun!) which I rode the whole time I was in Cheung Chau. It was HKD10 for an hour, HKD15 for two, and HKD20 for unlimited ride until 6 p.m. I think the rate is much cheaper than those touts along the waterfront. Do note, though, that you are not allowed to ride the bike at the ferry pier area and along the beaches from 12 p.m. on Saturday to midnight Sunday.

Northern Part of Cheung Chau

To my immense enjoyment, I do remember how to ride a bicycle (hehe) and the trails around Cheung Chau is definitely easy. Oh, did I mention that no cars or motorbikes are allowed on the island? Which is not surprising, considering the narrow alleyways and crowded side walk that made up the roads of Cheung Chau. Save for one police car, one ambulance and one fire engine (all mini-sized, and yes I saw all of them), the roads were free from annoying horns and traffic jam. What a relief.

Cheung Chau Tung Wan Beach

Without much effort, I hit the Tung Wan Beach, which is definitely the most popular strip of beach in Cheung Chau though far from being pristine. From the coastline, I can see the Kwun Yam Beach (also called the Afternoon Beach) and the one large hotel on the island, Warwick Hotel. From here I also get to see some windsurfers – apparently this was where Hong Kong’s only Olympic gold medalist was born and trained.

Really, Cheung Chau is so small that within an hour you can literally get everything within sight, even if you didn’t get to visit them one by one.

A Break at Tung Wan Beach

By then, the sun was scorching hot and I can feel my back was drenched with sweat. Time for a break, and what else would be a better choice than ice cold beer! This bottle of Heineken cost me a mere HKD22. I was a happy boy sipping on the deliciously cold beer while watching athletic looking folks running up and down the beach. Nuts, I called them, but damn their tan looked good.

Signboards at Cheung Chau

From here, I cycled back towards the main street of Cheung Chau in search for the venerable Banyan Tree, supposed located at Tung Wan Road although I didn’t managed to find it. The tree was so revered by the islanders that in recent years a restaurant opposite was knocked down instead of the tree to make way for a road extension.

The Town of Sai Wan

Moving southwards, I cycled my way towards the small “town” of Sai Wan… if you can call a collection of short buildings and a small sampan pier a town. This is where the famous Cheung Po Tsai Cave and the Reclining Rock are located at.

The Reclining Rock of Cheung Chau

The trail towards this spot is uphill, so I had to leave my bicycle behind. By then I was severely sunburnt and half wishing for another bottle of beer. But I pushed on, climbed the steep trail… only to be faced with a daunting-looking stairs leading downwards into some forest, where the reclining rock is supposed to be at. I took one look at the weed-infested stairs, and moved on.

The Cheung Po Tsai Trail

The Cheung Po Tsai trail is another 150 metres away from the reclining rock. The walk was not that unpleasant despite the scorching weather, what with the public toilet (ah, water, I love ya!) and family picnic area (deserted, of course). The sea view from this high vista is pretty lovely. And so I took the trail eager for some cave action…

At Cheung Po Tsai Cave

… only to be confronted by this dismal sight. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Cheung Po Tsai cave. Said to be the favorite hiding place for the notorious pirate Cheung Po Tsai, the cave is nothing more than a hole in the rock. Not sure if you can climb in – apparently you can rent torches from somewhere – but I am not going in there. Sore with disappointment, I made my way back to my bicycle and rode as quickly as possible back to the Praya for food.

Yes, I was starving! :D

New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant

There are many seafood restaurants lined up the waterfront near the Praya. The usual rule of thumb applies – look at where the locals are dining at. Also for Cheung Chau, where the islanders take their seafood very seriously, never ever order from a set menu. The cheaper price means frozen seafood, which is a far cry from the fresh, swimming variety in tanks. Pay a bit more for superior quality. In my case, I choose the way further away from the pier, a charming little place called New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant.

Steamed Fresh Fish - HK$100

Don’t be daunted by the Chinese menu; there’s an English version, just ask for it. This streamed fresh fish cost HKD100 and was pretty good. Not fantastic, but good enough I am not complaining on the price. Actually the prices here are pretty similar from one stall to another. You can check by looking at their displayed menu at the store front.

Deep Fried Squid with Special Sauce - HK$48

This deep fried squid was worth every penny. At HKD48, it is crunchy without making your lips oiled all over, and the meat was fresh, succulent and juicy. This was served with a special kind of salt and soya sauce. Use them sparingly; a little too much of these might spoil the taste.

Stir Fried Spinach with Shrimp Paste - HK$35

Shrimp paste is yet another specialty of Cheung Chau, and I just have to order a third dish. This stir fried spinach is pretty good but the portion is just too huge… or maybe I should have the sense not to order the dishes for one person. LOL. The vegetable dish, good for two meals, was priced at HKD35.

After such a satisfying meal, it was close to one p.m. Yes, because of the scorching weather, I only managed to last all of three hours on Cheung Chau. Nevertheless, I think I have seen most of what this island has to offer, and for a return visit I will definitely NOT do so during summer, and to come with friends for the company.

Deluxe Class in First Ferry

Oh, on the way back I took the First Ferry. There are two types of ferries servicing the Central – Cheung Chau route. The fast ferry is not airconditioned but will shorten your journey 15 minutes. The ordinary ferry will take 45 minutes and you have choice for either a general class, or deluxe class. I went for the Deluxe Class, of course, which cost a mere HKD18 for the trip back to Central.

Now excuse me while I go nurse my sunburnt :(

Click here for the full set of photos I took at Cheung Chau today.

Typhoon Koppu in Hong Kong

Typhoon Koppu marks my first working-day typhoon since I have arrived in Hong Kong three months ago.

Typhoon Koppu in Hong Kong

While I was recovering from a bout of illness in bed (all those unpacking and dust have done me in) yesterday, the tropical storm was raging all over Hong Kong and southern China, bringing extreme winds and pounding storm surge. The No 8 storm warning signal had been hoisted on Monday evening as Koppu struck – forcing many schools, businesses and shops to close.

Electric skies over Hong Kong as a powerful thunderstorm, embedded in an outer band of tropical storm Koppu, sweeps the area. Over 13,000 lightning strikes were recorded in 2 hours with winds gusting up to 80mph. Because of the typhoon, at least 50 people were injured and 28 admitted to hospital. But most received only minor injuries and were discharged after treatment.

As for me? Well, part of me was glad that I got the morning off (in Hong Kong, you need not report to work if typhoon no. 8 is hoisted) – a first for me since the previous two typhoons struck on weekends. When the signal was lowered to No. 3 at about 10.30 a.m. today, I was told I have two hours to get my ass back to work.

In my excitement of joining the hordes of office workers heading to work, I locked myself out of my home with my keys still on my table – inside the house. It took me another hour to sort that out, and as a result I was late for work.

Ah well. There is always a first time for everything, typhoon-related stupidity included.

If you are new to Hong Kong, like me, here are some very useful typhoon-related links:
1) HK Government Typhoon Warnings
2) Typhoon Hunter on YouTube, famous for chasing typhoons in HK

(Photo Credit: odogfoto)