Wednesday, June 11, 2014

China 2014 part 11 - Hong Kong


- Hong Kong -

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1108. First look at Hong Kong from the ocean.

I missed the hotel on the first pass, but got in on a simple double-check; I'm going to get an early dinner and hike southwest to see a bit of the infamy of Wan Chai.  I need to stay out of trouble, though, to hike over the hump to Aberdeen tomorrow morning.

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1109. Green walls and skyscrapers.

1110. (DNCO).

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1111. Greenery in an intersection near Causeway Bay.

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1112. Sweeping circle pedestrian bridge.

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1113. A small park at the west end of the Lockhart Road.

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1114. Into the Lockhart.  Except for the foreigner-friendliness, it's got nothing on the Portland from Jordan to MK.

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1115. Wan Chai back street.

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1116. East under the bridge on King's Road.

1117. (DNCO).

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1118. Library facade.

1119. (DNCO).

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1120. It's probably not pronounced that way, but yeah, lulz.

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1121. Built over the wall.

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1122. North Point at night.

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1123. Into the Java Road.

I did not get heavily challenged on my 空人-ness on the Lockhart; only barked once, and zero flyers.  However, between one thing and another, I hunted up another 5 or so caps, and should have no problem going in the bars for the CL final tomorrow morning -- provided I pack a spare shirt.

On the downside, I completely smashed up my left wrist not falling down the stairs to an otaku shop.  I don't have enough duct tape to dress it, so all I can do is hope it swells stiff overnight.  Crap.

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1124. Night lights inland.

Hong Kong

Today should be pretty simple: trams to Kennedy, then hike around the west side to Aberdeen and take some pictures, then come back and see what I've got time for.  This is the last real day of the trip -- tomorrow is going to be mostly packing and going to the airport -- and I want to make the most of it.

I sweated entirely through my ironhide shirt, but got to Aberdeen in good order, toweled off, and changed back into my fitba rig.  This is an excellent hike, but I'd rather do it in the winter, and I'm taking the damn bus to get back.

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1125. Morning view; the other side has harbor views, but this is also kinda cool.

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1126. Dawn in North Point.

v68. Between two stops on the island tram in Wan Chai.

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1127. Part of the Western Market.

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1128. They liked it enough to put a permanent piece over it.  (Reference #056 from 2010.)

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1129. Island point between buildings.

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1130. Bridge and west Kowloon.

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1131. Lush slope; greener than it was that November.

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1132. West end of an island.

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1133. Hill and channel.

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1134. Down to a dome island.

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1135. Brilliant blue skies.

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1136. The tentacles of a banyan attack the pavement.

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1137. A notch in the greenery.

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1138. Out into the harbor.

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1139. Islands in the distance.

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1140. A path down into the jungle.  I had plenty of time, so why not?

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1141. Watercourse by the path.

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1142. An anomalous block of tile.

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1143. Lookout at the bottom of the hill.

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1144. Headland to the west.

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1145. A pan across from the lookout.

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1146. Cloud towers over the ocean.

1147. (DNCO).

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1148. Container ship rounds the head.

v69. The tide lashes the rocks.

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1149. Waterfall, heading back up.

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1150. Small boat, vast sea.

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1151. Weathered rocks in the surf.

1152. (DNCO).

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1153. Shrine by the path.

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1154. The channel's close in here.

1155. (DNCO).

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1156. Down to Sandy Bay.

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1157. Top of the morning.

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1158. Hill of tombs.

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1159. Built into the slope.

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1160. A stream down the cliff.

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1161. Below a sweeping curve.

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1162. A single pillar.

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1163. Down to the bay over the cemetery.

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1164. Back to the track in.

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1165. Across a deep gorge.

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1166. The dizzying drop to Cyberport.

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1167. Villas on the reverse slope.

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1168. Jockey Club clinic; Hong Kongers can "afford" low (not really; the average tax burden on the average HK resident is not much different proportionally from the US, it's just that the rich need fewer accountants to avoid paying something like a fair share) taxes due to the inevitable private tax paid to the racecourses.

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1169. Channel from above Cyberport.

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1170. Supports from a descending road.

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1171. Window in the wall.

v70. A storming cataract, coming in to Aberdeen.

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1172. Channel and islands.

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1173. Breeze blocks.

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1174. Slope towards Aberdeen.

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1175. Down away to the water.

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1176. Channel across the road.

1177. (DNCO).

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1178. Back up the road.

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1179. Arriving Aberdeen harbor.

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1180. Fisherman at anchor.

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1181. Temple gate and mountainside.

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1182. Green growth, white buildings, blue sky.

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1183. Fisherman statue on the Aberdeen Promenade.

v71. Old-style boats plying in the anchorage.

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1184. Trapper and basket.

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1185. The fleet at anchor.

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1186. Jumbo ferry running out.

The idea is to maybe check out the floating restaurant here, maybe hit the market, and then head on back, take a shower, change shirts, and see how Kowloon is.  As prophesied, Guangdong in late May is melting me into a puddle of finely rendered adventurer blubber.  Even before just taking the bus, I'll probably need to drain most of another 2l of water.

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1187. Sail structure over the park.  It was still too early (like 10:30) for a proper lunch, so I got a couple sausage rolls with my water and took a rest before the bus.

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1188. Cool skylight from under the structure.

This is ridiculous.  My ironhide shirt is so badly sweated that if I put it away without airing, it would probably rot.  For the afternoon's expedition, I'm going to need to go to a reserve dress shirt and known-unlucky shorts, because I have to reserve gear for tomorrow and the seat of the normal shorts is drenched.  It's a shame that I wasn't able to take the heli, but having all my gear has been a godsend.  Hong Kong is no place to sit around waiting for your only set of clothes to dry.

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1189. Fried flat noodles with assorted meat; mostly chicken, pork, and deli ham.  This was a $34 late lunch from Family Kitchen, right next to the hotel, and good for that point.  It'd be cheaper in Kowloon, but I'm not in Kowloon yet.

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1190. Ibis tower and nice sky from the North Point ferry pier.

Across on the Hung Hom promenade, east TST is heavily regenerated.  If the Nathan's gentrified as far north as Jordan, I won't be surprised.

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1191. Across to eastern Kowloon.

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1192. Central skyline from the sea.

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1193. On the Kowloon side.

1194. (DNCO).

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1195. Along the promenade to the Central waterfront.

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1196. Hung Hom rebuilt; this could be practically anywhere.

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1197. The harbor's still familiar, though.

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1198. Towers and sky.

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1199. Stormcloud over the harbor.

Hong Kong's infinite capacity for self-regeneration has been noted before.  At almost the same interval, it's really interesting to see what's changed between the last two points.  If you understand nothing else about HK, understand this: anything written down here has an even chance of being obsolete even as the pen touches paper, a chance that grows to lim(1) over time -- and that growth can be remarkably quick.

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1200. A solid front charging up from the south.

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1201. A hole in the beetling weather.

This stuff looks bad, but it didn't catch on the mountains of the island, so it's not going to catch on anything till it hits the NT.  I'm probably not going to get soaked.  Probably.

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1202. Adrift.

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1203. Not a stone of the old remaining atop another.

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1204. The new east TST -- wide streets and leafy trees.

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1205. Into the sky, waiting to cross Austin.

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1206. Back to the old Kowloon; this far south, mostly cleared out of the major streets.

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1207. Crowd at a press conference on Carnaveron.

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1208. For this guy.

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1209. Up the Nathan again.

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1210. Gentrification's not uniform or all-conquering -- but does extend well past Jordan into the middle 300s.

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1211. Church, old apartments, and sky.

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1212. Green and silver.

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1213. The Kowloon of Western imagination.

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1214. Old and new at another stoplight.

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1215. Enclosed; off Nathan towards the Portland.

1216. (DNCO).

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1217. The banyans still dream lushly over the Park Lane arcade.

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1218. This is the Chungking Mansions in 2014.  Almost all that's left is the infamous name.

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1219. True enough; forget for a moment that we're in China, which places rather severe restrictions on its citizens' ability to move around domestically, let alone internationally.

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1220. Clear skies from the Avenue of the Stars.

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1221. The spirit of Hong Kong cinema.

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1222. Without serious autotune, this is as close as this guy will get to being among the stars.  Like a Japanese v-kei singer with a tin ear...and if you know what weird 'melodies' you get from v-kei generally, that's saying something.

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1223. Sky and Central.

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1224. A slice on the Bank of China tower.

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1225. Avenue of the Stars; the Shaw brother with a title gets in.

1226. (DNCO).

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1227. Slice on the opera house.

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1228. Catamaran inshore for no reason.

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1229. He dies early in a lot of his flicks, but lived to put his hands in the pavement.

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1230. ...while Bruce of course didn't.

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1231. Sammo Hung is on the walk.

1232. (not germane)

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1233. Jackie Chan's star is popular with the ladies -- though nowhere near as much as Andy Lau's, which was too packed to sneak a picture.

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1234. John Woo attracts attention.

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1235. Some dude steps on Tsui Hark.

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1236. Tsui Hark, not being stepped on by some dude.

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1237. Of course, he's here as well.

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1238. Bruce Lee squares up.

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1239. Not forgotten among the action heroes.

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1240. Bruce and more of Central.

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1241. Stephen Chow's star is overlooked and frequently stood on, much like his usual lead characters.

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1242. I appear to be the only one who cares about Simon Yam.

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1243. The Aqualuna, the last of the red-sail junks.

v72. The old remaining, or passing away into the east?

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1244. Aqualuna and old-style major ad fronts.

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1245. Building the future today.

1246. (DNCO).

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1247. Perfect sky behind a forest of cranes.

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1248. Light, shadow, crane, sky.

I'm going to stick a bit, see the night lights, take the ferry across one last time, then head back by MTR to get some dinner and sack out.  It's been an eventful, productive, and very sweaty day, but it, and the trip with it, is coming to an end.  And well in time too -- I'm nearly out of book to note it in, and would prefer to not start a second to cover the last couple hours.

1249. (DNCO).

Final scores: South Asian Dudes Holla At Whitey
tailors: 7
watches: 6, the last of whom also offered drugs.

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1250. Lights rise to the south.

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1251. This guy can spell his English name any way he likes as a private citizen, but when you take out ads on buses, you're fair game.

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1252. Island and clouds into the west.

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1253. Lights come on west of the IFC.

1254. (DNCO).

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1255. This building was unfinished in '10; it's about the tallest thing in Kowloon now.

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1256. Palms and the corner of the arts center.

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1257. Tower and hotel.

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1258. A panorama across the pier promenade.

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1259. Across south to the light.

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1260. Around the Bank of China tower.

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1261. Further east.

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1262. IFC and western shore.

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1263. Dusk falls; the ferry roll accounts for the blur.

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1264. Neon in the water.

v73. A pan along the shore and back, crossing on the ferry.

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1265. Lit-up ferry.

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1266. Back to the Kowloon side.

1267. (DNCO).

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1268. Full-building ads.

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1269. The heart of Central and a hole in the sky.  I timed this crossing perfectly; the lights and darkness set up the other shots, but there's still enough light left to do a crazy wide like this.

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1270. Wide on the BoC.

1271. (DNCO).

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1272. Wobbly view on a motor junk.

1273. (DNCO).

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1274. Along Central, coming in to anchor.

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1275. The eastern reaches reflected.

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1276. Wide open above.

1277. (DNCO).

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1278. Landfall; castles by sunset.

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1279. BoC and neighborhood from the shore.

1280. (DNCO).

When I got back to the room, I pulled up lame; a huge blister under a callus needed addressing, and the dressed wound was still hard to walk on.  But my stomach reminded me that while it was ok now, repairing today's damage was going to suck without additional inputs.  So I hobbled down the street and got a nice big bowl of ramen -- it's what's for dinner at 9pm -- from the ramenya next to Family Kitchen.  Thus fed, it was home and sleep; it's a late start tomorrow, but I had a full day today.

Hong Kong

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1281. Morning view, last day.

I have to kill a couple hours this morning, so I'm going to go after Chinese-style vac-packed {xiaochi} after breakfast, go see if I can find another mushroom dude despite it being Sunday, and then head back and pack up, getting lunch somewhere on my block before heading to the airport.  I'd go up to Sha Tin, but I could only see like one race, and it's a hard hack from there back to HKG.

So while I wasn't able to find any airworthy 小吃, and the otaku store doesn't open till 11:30, the morning's hike must be reckoned a smashing success: checking the Wellcome by the Fortress Hill metro, I found six new caps, getting me to about 70 elements and over 60 caps.  I'd previously collected almost all the locals, but hunting the Island gets you the expat market as well.

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1282. A gleaming blue tower.

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1283. Sudden storm.

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1284. Lol China.

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1285. Hidden gold.

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,br /> 1286. Sampan congee and donut sticks; a better breakfast than lunch, but I was hungry from trucking my pack from North Point down to Tin Hau and elated to get 50% off another mushroom dude and a Doraemon blind-pack.

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1287. A gap in the buildings.

I still need something for work...airport snacks from the duty-free counter it is.  I've got that kilobill rattling around after all....

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1288. South and east at the Lantau Link.

I got to the airport too early again, re-rigged, and have about an hour or two to kill with a last novel before check-in opens.  No water.  No good.

On the plane, short booze and with an uncertain baggage situation, moved around due to others' poor planning.  It's par for the course; my journey's not over just yet.  I need more water, and hopefully to be less angry; it's not going to help anything.

- Qatar -

I've got nearly an hour before the gate opens, and though I could use some water, this is definitely Childe Harolde/Orpheus territory, and I'm doing enough damage by using their dumb airline.  Probably, I'll try and get my Philly boarding pass issued from the transfer desk so that I don't get marooned between arrival and recheck.

No pass issued.  Stupid security recheck.  Oh well; I'm at least capable of getting home from Philly, even by organization, on my own.  It might even, in extremis, be possible to call for pickup.  Long's I get on here, I should be able to get out somehow.

I seriously doubt this flight is overbooked, based on the volume of passengers available at the outset, but if it stops folk whining about middle seats, well enough.  Try 15 hours with one leg trying to leave the aircraft and a middle-school girl a few dozy inches away from a Love-Hina-"plot"-"twist" faceplant.  Try a day and a half in a bunk where you can't sit up nor lie straight.  This is a plane, ffs, and all the seats are wide and packing a private TV.  If you're not sharing a cabin with livestock (or British Med-resort-goers) or open to the air, it's not really possible to rough it on a plane...not and survive.

over Baghdad

If I don't sleep now, I can't reset; we'll be riding the sun west.

1289. (DNCO).

- Philadelphia -

Time to kill before Boston, my bag successfully rechecked and pass issued.  This was the first TSA point I've been through -- the fourth in the last 24 hours -- to be staffed by incompetents and tinpot dictators; people who travel by air mostly on holiday weekends may get more of these, as all the ones who don't suck can get the day off.  It's like an hour and a half till boarding; time for some more bad novels.

Finally, though, I got on the plane, dozed for most of the 45-minute sprint, and got through brief consternation at the Logan baggage claim because the idiots in Philly had just put my pack on the first plane out instead of the one I was on.  This handled, it was back to my place to sleep, recover, and over the course of the next week, get this report shipshape.


Looking back over the whole of the trip, there are some definite lessons to be learned.  First, May is probably too late for something like this; you have about a month, either in April or September, when you can use mostly the same gear north to south and not completely melt in Guangdong.  Second, doing this trip is probably not a good idea, because even under those constraints you miss stuff due to excessively hot weather north and south.  It'd be smarter to break this into two trips: a Shanghai - Qingdao - Beijing (most people will not have two weeks living in Beijing already completed) - Xi'an - Chengdu - Wuhan - Guilin -Shanghai loop done in the summer, and a winter trip to Harbin (by high-speed rail from and to Beijing), then down to Guangzhou - Macau -Hong Kong with an air insert.  This will require two visas, though, and the Chinese visa process is neither real cheap nor real friendly.

Third, I correctly identified the compass as an essential piece of gear for this trek, even if I fucked up and didn't pack a rainshell.  Most other places in the world, you can expect to be able to navigate off the sun and general map impressions, but not in China: the combination of pollution and weather means that you can't assume that coming out of the subway, you'll be able to find your bearings unassisted.  Your compass is your best friend, especially in the interior; I could have got along without it fine in Qingdao, but Harbin would have been impossible.

Fourth, this is eminently doable -- provided you're able to train up enough Chinese language proficiency in advance.  This was less expensive than Russia by nearly half, and a lot of that cost was in hotels, which scale.  Food is cheap.  Trains are cheap, and you can make them cheaper than I did.  You just need to be able to speak Chinese and read a little bit.  Five hundred characters, which was my vocab after about three months of intensive self-study, should be enough, provided that you can pronounce them all correctly, recognize them as written, and put them together into more complicated concepts.  If you want to see all these places in China speaking only English, you can do that too.  But it will be more expensive, and you'll have a guide mediating your experience.

Lastly, this is no longer necessary to do full Chinese tourism.  Recently, the government has opened up Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou as "72-hour transfer" cities: if you have a flight to somewhere else, you can stay within the city for up to 72 hours without a visa.  You can't sneak into China like this, not too well -- the rail stations and presumably long-distance buses require a passport (and visa for non-Chinese) to buy a ticket -- but you can still see a lot of stuff.  It remains to be tested whether it's possible to bounce Beijing-Shanghai-Guangzhou-southern SARs on the same trip, or if you have to take your flight ending the 72 hours to somewhere not in China, but in a way, we're back to where things started two hundred years ago, albeit with a different five "treaty ports".

Someone else will need to do that one; I've still got three continents not crossed off yet, so it will likely be a while before I go back to Asia, and if and when that happens, there are other countries to see that will take precedence over speed-touring and rule-bending in urban China.