happnin' hong kong - the resurection of Sony Vaio, Blade Runner cityscapes

Yolanda’s bit
Our plane to Hong Kong leaves at 5am. It's huge and full. Eight hours with the stop in Bangkok. We all have a cool little screen with twenty channels.
On the first one you can see the lower front of the plane and what is ahead. It's fun to watch the take off and landing with the little wheel emerging and disappearing. As we gain altitude, you see earth smaller and smaller and then a landscape of clouds.
On the second channel there's a map with a plane moving and showing the trajectory. It indicates where we are at the moment, altitude, temperature, speed, wind speed, local time, how long till we get there. The other channels are TV channels.

We land in Hong Kong about 3pm local time. As soon as we get into the airport we are in awe. It's huge. Blade Runner. Beautiful toilets, smoking lounge, immigration, baggage reclaim, hotel booking, cashpoint, 23 mins. Airport Express train to Central with individual hi-tech screens showing info and entertainment in town, taxi to hotel, all in less than an hour.

Ah! the hotel. It's a cheapie for HK standards and it's heaven. 30 floors circular green mirrored tower with a few restaurants and lounges and the super cool top floor starlight lounge. In the room we spend some time excited with the toys.
TV! Look, a fridge with drinks! A safe! A BATH!!! with hot water! A hair-dryer which looks like a wall telephone and starts blowing as you unhook it. Toilet telephone, soap, toothbrushes, towels, real toilet. On the bed table there are the controls for TV, radio and room lighting with dimming control. Teas, sleepers and the Bible.
Huge window from where you can watch the little people in the street eight floors down. Full air-con and the beds? ah, the beds! I haven't slept in anything as comfortable and soft for years.

We play for a while (oh, God! the hot bath was so good! and the shower! like a full body massage. And the bath get-shampoo-conditioner smells like heaven and leaves you softer than soft) and book a table at the starlight lounge for a drink.
All these formalities make me a bit nervous and I wear my best socks for the occasion.

Ooooooooouaaauuh! The views through the circular glass are impressive. Blade Runner.

Hundreds of enormous skyscrapers all jammed together in an impossible way, huge neon signs in Chinese in all colors sticking out from everywhere. God, so much electricity together!
At the end of it all, the eye meets some big mountains. It's cold, grey and cloudy, a bit like London, and the clouds cover the last floors of the tallest buildings.

We are in a daze of marvel and tiredness, the sight is unbalancing. We're dreaming. It's happy hour and we have a few cocktails.
God, it's freezing! The piano man imitates an entire band and the Chinese woman sings Chinese songs and jazzy ones in English in a deep broken voice. Her eyes seem to be piercing everyone in the lounge at the same time. There's also a Happy Birthday.

Back in the room we order some real spaghetti and we crash out. Beautiful sleep. Everything is so nice and easy.
Next morning we bring little broken Vaio to Sony Service Center. Fast and easy.

I'm freezing to death and I have no clothes. It must be around 15 degrees which is not bad but after a continuous not lower than 35 degrees for two months, I can't stand it. And it's raining! I get a yellow space jacket and a sweater and use my colorful Indian sun-umbrella for the rain.

We walk around with wide open eyes and dropped jaw, trying to land and get used to the huge contrast with India. In a way we feel like at home and it's great, but it's such a contrast! Every single thing.

No stares, no hassle, clean streets (made of concrete!), no cowshit, no cows, no pigs, no dogs, no goats, no beggars, no-one sleeping in the street, millions of watts, all the shops with everything you could possibly want, people looking healthy (not happier) and comfortable, everything is easy for you (if you have the money).

We get into a mastodontic size Computer Center and I feel dizzy. Miles can't help himself and buys a Sony Handycam. Supercool.

In the evening we visit a Wing-Chung Kung-Fu class. Miles wanted to join for a couple of days but it was not possible. It's gonna be hard to find any Shaolin Kung Fu, but it would be great to see the real thing.
After, we eat Macdonald's! (I know it's disgusting, I must be still under the shock) which is the cheapest way to eat in town.
The cost of life in HK is pretty much like London. After India everything is far too expensive, we have to switch to London mode so it seems normal.

I have a wintry feeling which makes me want to be in bed all day but it's also very nice. You can walk a lot without sweating to death. We passed from the daze of heat to the daze of freeze.

Now we just have to enjoy the city while little Vaio gets repaired. We went to see the beach at the south, crossing by bus to the other side of hilly HK island. Tiny cute half moon place with few holiday resorts, a temple going into the sea and a huge group of lifeguards training to save safe Chinese lives.
We also took the tram to the highest HK hill where the sci-fi city landscape is at its best.
It looked like the laptop could take two weeks to get fixed. After a few days HK becomes too cold and expensive to stay in so we decide to split and I brought forward my flight to Bangkok.
Both Miles and I liked the idea of having a little break from each other. In the last 3 months we had spent most of the time in each other's company.

The idea of starting an unknown country on my own was also exciting. We had the famous Peking duck as farewell dinner, massive break from our vegetarian diet which was already starting to have some little meaty affairs. It was delicious.

Miles’s bit
The flight was really cool - Cathay Pacific, all the seats had mini-TVs built in with a huge choice of channels. One of them had a computer map of the airplanes current position complete with the flight instrument readouts, another even had an external camera view from under the hull of the plane!

On arriving at HK I quickly relieved myself in the first toilet I came across. There was a little sensor built into the urinal that automatically flushed it when you stepped back - I was back in a civilized country, ho-rah!
The Airport was enormous, they actually have a train inside the terminal to take you from one end to the other. We breezed through passport control, picked up our baggage immediately and then were through customs. After a quick stop at a cash-point we left the airport. The airport express train whisked us away at 160km/hr into the city where we took a short taxi ride to our hotel.
From stepping off the plane to walking into the hotel took just one hour, a slight change to what we'd been used to!

The Hotel was a comparative luxury. Up on the 8th floor I trampolined with joy on the beds while playing with the remote controls for the rooms various facilities. Then I had a bath (as opposed to a shower), the first one in 3 months! Later we sipped cocktails in the hotels piano bar up on the 30th floor looking out over the neon lit Bladerunner cityscape.

First on the agenda for HK was to get the Vaio repaired. The Sony service point (one of 4 in HK) was a mere 2 blocks from the hotel. The turnaround was quoted as 2 weeks but they managed it in 10 days.

In that time we spent a couple of days seeing the sights to be seen. With our interest in Kung Fu, we spent an evening visiting one of HK's many clubs to watch a class doing the real thing - not surpassingly they have so much more style than we westerners do.

A lot of the time we spent window-shopping, there is a lot of it to be done in HK. There are loads of shopping centers all over the place, big multi-floor things selling everything you could ever want. With HK being Tax free for goods I took advantage of this and bought a Sony Mini-DV HandyCam, it has a firewire interface and plugs directly into the Vaio.
I started shooting footage straight away (download the video)

One place I made several return visits to was a computer shopping arcade, 3 or 4 times the size of London's Tottenham Court Road conveniently squashed into a 2 story building - Heaven!

Getting around HK was pretty easy. Worth a mention are HK's underground trains, the MTR (Mass Transit Railway). Apart from being cheap, clean, fast and efficient they also have smart ticket barriers that deduct the appropriate fare from your travelcard as you pass through them, you don't even have to take your travelcard out of your wallet.

After a couple of nights of luxury in our hotel we mover to a cheaper place to stay - the Wang Fat Hostel. Staying in HK was proving to be costly. Accommodation and food are at a premium, even compared to London's inflated prices.
To save some money Yolanda went ahead to Bangkok in Thailand on her own, while I waited for the Vaio to be repaired.

I passed the time over the last few days watching films, visiting some games arcades and window shopping electronics and computers.

I'd got some free vouchers with the Sony HandyCam, one of which was for a nearby Tex-Mex bar, so to pass an evening I went there.
I got my free drink with the voucher, drank it and bought one for the road (I didn't want to look like a cheap freeloader).
2 drinks arrived, it turned out to be happy hour. After struggling to finish them I prepared to leave again only to be confronted with another tequila, on-the-house from the friendly Nepalese barman I'd been chatting to.
Four for the price of one. Not what I'd had in mind for the evening.

I staggered out and had a frustrating episode with 5 phone boxes and 3 phonecards (I was drunk and alone in a foreign city and wanted to call someone and say "hello!") I crashed out later and had weird Star Wars dreams.

Jubilation - the Vaio was ready to be collected so I picked it up straight away. I was going to fly out that evening so I did a quick bit of shopping - gold CDs, another 64Mb of ram for the Vaio and a padded carrycase, and off I shot to the Mega-airport Bangkok bound.