Saturday, June 13, 2015

My very own exhibitionist shower!

The first two days in Hong Kong have been excellent overall. The flight over felt long, but for the first time in my life I sprung for the exit row seating, and it was the best idea. Ever.

Please take a moment to appreciate my legroom.

As we descended for landing, the sky was clear enough that we had a pretty good view of the city over the harbour. Admittedly, once I was on the ground and got a look at the layout of the rail system, I don’t think this is Hong Kong Central. All the same, it was pretty smooth sailing catching the Airport Express into HK Central. There was a minor hitch in figuring out how to get to our hotel though.

I landed a couple hours before Max, so getting to our hotel and checking in was my job. Google maps informed me that the hotel was just over half a kilometer from the train station. Jetlagged, but doggedly determined, I thought it made much more sense to walk that distance instead of catching and paying for a cab.

Oh, Kenna.

Don’t make decisions like that when you’re sleepy.

It turns out that HK Central actually has a fairly extensive network of raised walkways, not unlike the +15 system in downtown Calgary that I grew up with. The primary difference being that these walkways are air-conditioned as a means to escape the heat and humidity, as opposed to the +15’s in Calgary which are heated as a means to escape the winter cold we have 8 months each year. In both cases though, the elevated paths really channel where pedestrian traffic flows; namely, not at street level. If I’d realised this, it would have really made my night much easier.

I tried for about an hour to get out of the train station at street level. All that earned be was fatigue from dragging my rollybag up and down dozens of steps, two lungs full of tour bus exhaust fumes, and several confused looks from assorted mall and transportation staff members. It’s probably my own fault for not asking for directions on how to escape the station. I will blame this on my lack of sleep as well.

In any case, I did end up taking a taxi. At the very least I’m glad I did because driving in HK isn’t so different from a stop-and-go rollercoaster. The roads themselves are narrow, and full of the traffic that all major cities tend to attract. The acceptable distance between vehicles is very small here, and there were several times I thought the taxi driver was being kind of a dick, when really he was allowing another vehicle to merge into our lane ahead of us. For the record, if I left about a meter between my front bumper and the merging vehicle’s back bumper in Canada, that would not be a clear indicator that the merging vehicle was welcome in my lane. In fact, I’d interpret that as someone trolling me by hanging out in my blind spot and blocking my merge. Not here though, that’s just the flow of traffic.

The roads are also steeply built, with signs along the side advising when the grade passes 1:5 and a low gear should be used by all traffic. The streets twist and double back on themselves almost comically. There is an intersection in front of our hotel that literally includes a hairpin turn, and changes the driver’s direction nearly 180 degrees. It really did feel like a slow-motion roller coaster getting to the hotel.

The hotel is also hilarious. I’d been warned that hotel rooms in HK tend to be closet-sized, but this is amazing. The entire room might be 10x16 ft. It includes a bed, toilet and shower. The toilet and shower are somewhat… exhibitionist.

What really matters though is that the AC works like a charm, the bed is comfortable, and the shower has excellent water pressure and temperature control. For entertainment, those white blinds on the window can be raised to allow us to look straight into the office building next door. The person who works there has a very executive-looking rollychair, a large pine-coloured desk unit, and a grey carpet.

Day two was pretty calm overall. Max and I are fighting opposite ends of jetlag in that I am up and ready to go at about 5:00am, and he’s cruising in from a night out at about 4am. So far, HK seems to cater much more to Max’s sleep cycle than mine, but more on that later.

Once we were both awake, we had a very leisurely stroll all through the HK Central district to orient ourselves. We also had an excellent time sauntering through the Zoological Gardens right at the heart of the city. Seriously, there is a free ‘zoo’ in the middle of town.

Mostly the park contains rare or exotic birds in large aviaries, but there were a couple enclosures with smaller monkeys. What Max and I found the most amazing was the sheer amount of greenery. The park itself was like stepping into a jungle. The trees are massive, and there’s bamboo everywhere. What continues to amaze us is how integrated the massive trees, bamboo, and other greenery is into the rest of the city as well as park spaces. It’s not unusual to be walking along and look up to see that the retaining wall you’re next to is enveloped by tree roots. The feel of the city is actually changed due to all the nature. I really quite like it, and hope that North American cities find a way to emulate it moving forward.

Needless to say, we've been a bit tame thus far. I solemnly swear that won't last for long, haha! Tomorrow is set to include antiques, eating in restaurants where there are no english menus, the glitzy downtown section of the raised walkways, and multiple temples. I can't wait :D

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