Sunday, November 28, 2010

一龍 - Inbound and Kowloon

-- 1 --

Logan Airport, Boston

The next two days are technically part of the trip, but are pretty much getting crossed off in the process of the crossing. I left home at about 5:45 this morning, touch down in Hong Kong at 7 tomorrow night, and likely won't get out of baggage/customs/transit and even onto the Kowloon peninsula until 9 or so. I'm not counting on being any way functional till Sunday. For now, reise, reise.

JFK, New York

New York + airport = $14 lunch, apparently. Maybe Dublin was more expensive, but I was in a wicked time crunch there. About three hours to 16 hours to destination.

Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR

Right. Condense yesterday, then nap.

The flight in was mezza-mez; I ended up in a center seat, but there are worse things than going 9000 miles with a cute girl on each arm. It's not for this that I recommend Cathay Pacific (ymmv on that score, if you get dissidents pretending to be old white dudes instead), but for the legroom; this is the first air voyage I can recall since getting my full growth where even if the guy in front of me had put his seat back, my knees would've been ok.

We touched down shortly after dusk, so it was dark as I took the airport rail into the city. They've really cleaned up arrivals since I was here last -- either that or I'm better at dodging touts, which may also be the case.

Because I a) couldn't find an Octopus card vendor and b) was not 100% sure where my hotel was, I didn't switch to the MTR at Kowloon/Austin station. Instead, I thought "well, it's a small island, and I'm strong, and I need to stretch my legs after the plane anyway", and set off on foot. Because I didn't open the map I bought (can't go looking like a tourist, horrors), I ended up taking Canton Rd. to Nathan Rd., which experienced HKers will realize adds about 2 miles to the trek. That was the downside. The upside is that Hong Kong is amazing at night.

Neon lights and warm wet air. Thousands and thousands of people from all across the globe. Anything and everything you could want to go after. All of it, just poured out onto you. Stunning. There's no lens wide enough to take it all in, and nowhere to stand, stop, and shoot from. You'll get bowled over by pedestrians, mobbed by touts if there's space on the sidewalk (the spaces around the South Asian guys are there for a reason), or hit by a taxi if you take refuge in the street. No words, no pictures can do this justice; just get here and even just once, hike up Nathan Road from the harbor to Mong Kok after dark.

My hotel is just off Nathan, close by the Portland, which is close enough as I care to get; interesting, but not as hand-on-yer-blade interesting as staying in a guesthouse on the street in question. No shortage of greasy-spoons, a 7-11 for general provisions, and decently close to both the MK and Yau Ma Tei MTR stations. Things are just awesome, a great experience and then Celtic win 9-0. If they do that Wednesday too, I may have to consider moving over.

1. Street, looking down, 5 AM.

2. Self-portrait through the eye. HKD10 bills are still plastic, but now they have a see-through panel. Awesome.

And yes, I have my hoops on. It's hot here even in November, and it breathes better than a t-shirt.

3. My 'hood. Hong Kong Krete, yet cool all the same.

For reference, this is from the 9th floor. There is a lot of 'go up' around here.

4. Just across the way. Amazing character.

5. A view across and up. With a perfectly clear window and a better camera I could shoot out of here all day.

After a long and eventually hungry hike out to Carpenter Street, I eventually got breakfast settled for more aggro than anticipated, because I don't speak Cantonese (and the numbers are different) and out here nobody speaks English. $500 to settle a $12 bill...gwailo le...;_; I shoulda dropped the 500 at the subway stop getting my Octopus card (now 100% all set for later explorations) rather than dumping the last of my coinage.

6. Rubbish collection, while waiting for the lift.

7. Well, it's not a whole two months.

8. Old battlements. I couldn't find anything attesting to the army camp, but this was the best candidate. Worth another look on the way back.

9. Overpass where Waterloo Road splits off Argyle Street.

10. Some old, rusted barbed wire.

11. Punching in on the church in the previous shot.

12. Pretty sure that used to be an 'o' or 'e' on the end before the weather got to it.

Kowloon Walled City Park

13. Almshouse front. This area was a major hive of scum and villainy before the Brits sent the bulldozers in in '93.

14. Now, it looks like this.

15. Foundations of the old south gate.

16. Slate for #15.

17. Trees behind the basketball court. You don't need to frame anything here.

18. Small covered structure.

19. Back into town. Like I said, this city frames itself.

This park is really, really cool and well worth the morning hike, before things get noisy, and it's just old people doing calisthenics that many schoolkids would have trouble with.

20. Mei Po Building over a pavilion.

21. Better view of the pavilion.

22. Outbuildings and wall.

23. Sculpture garden; all 12 animals of the zodiac are represented, but most aren't tall enough to be visible over the hedge.

24. Light filters down through the trees.

25. New above the old, and a clean sky from the rain yesterday.

26. Back of the almshouse structure.

27. Wall, bamboo, awesome composition.

28. Rock structure/sculpture at the highest point in the park.

29. Lower areas, backlit.

30. Old-style wall and grate.

31. Rock with apparent importance.

32. Pretend Tarantino composition.

33. "Trim and grow" bonsai by a wall.

34. More context on the last picture.

35. KWC as it was, at least 100 years ago. After '47, with the influx of refugees from the mainland, things got worse, and since the local warlords who built the fort never actually handed the keys over to the Brits, even while the New Territories were being annexed around them, there was no definite law to speak of in here, which is why it took until 1993 for the British to be sure the Chinese wouldn't take it as an act of war if they cleared the place out.

36. Pond in the park.

37. Old gate under repair.

38. Upper-level pond, feeding the waterfall in #36.

39. Topiary dragon (with mange).

After the park, I hiked back to, then in on, Argyle Street, looking for signs of where a friend from work, an ethnic Chinese Viet whose family fled the purge that started in '79, might have been interned. All I had was the description of the camp as an old army base, and the knowledge that there had been refugees interned at the Argyle Street army camp. There's no trace of such a camp now; it was likely sold for development after '97 if not before. Where Alec and his folks once squatted behind fences, likley luxury apartments now rise, inhabited by people who most likely don't know or care about the Vietnamese who were there before them.

It could be worse, though; after they tore down the camp at Whitehead they made it into a frickin golf course.

40. Traced in air. Be aware of unreal things, f'real. Sufficiently advanced math is indistinguishable from art.

I timed my return wrong by about half an hour and thus do not get my room made up today. But what was I gonna do, browse the "24 hours - many countries girls free previews" in the dive advertised as such? Better to rest up, shower, and then go get lunch before going exploring again -- and to wake up later tomorrow so that this isn't as much of an issue.

Food score:
7-11 - 2
Pointed at - 1

Objective is to point at as much as possible, convenience stores reserved for crunch time and room stocking.

As it turns out, I slept through lunch and on till dark. Not so bad; a hike around the block and I was able to hit up a nice noodle shop on the Shanghai. Good stuff cheap, even if my chopsticks skill is still underleveled.

After that, back over and down Portland to the hotel, stopping to provision up. Bars here later; I'm still adjusting to the time change, so a bottle of Skol and some bread for tomorrow and I'm set.

41. Authentic "Canadean" beer. It tastes like Gansett, you're not missing anything.

Tomorrow: out to Central, as close to all day as I can manage, going up Victoria Peak for the night view if it's clear. I need to also find the Happy Valley track and the CSC in Kennedy for Wednesday, but there's a lot of Central to see.

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