International

Day 3: Hong Kong

I slept hard last night. I guess I didn’t really realize how much we had done yesterday. I’ve been reading a book that was recommended to me by a friend of a friend called Cowboys, Angels, and Armageddon. I’ve been reading as part of my time on vacation. I’m usually not an avid reader but when I find a book I tend to commit to it and read it intensely cover to cover. Since I was tired from the day before I spent most of the morning actually reading the book. 🙂 I have to say all in all it was a good enough story to keep me engaged. But there’re several sections of the text that dragged.

The plot line is the story of a young boy growing up in a Jehovah’s Witness household who is gay. The author in this autobiography tells both his coming of age and coming out in the text.  The book spends an inordinate amount of time focusing on his life as a child and not near enough time on his teen years and adult life. His father worked as a cowboy in the book talks about how the author grows up and rural culture and prospers through it into his adult life. A lot of me wished he focused more on the transformation and less on the problems of the situation.  Having spent some time in conservative religion in my youth I could identify with some of the author’s story, but there are parts of the Jehovah’s Witness faith that was very different.

The one thing that definitely gets me down about Hong Kong is the level of air pollution in the area. It’s saddening how short the visibility really is. Apparently the summer wind pattern keeps a lot of the pollution from mainland China away from Hong Kong. In the winter the winds blow from north to south bringing the pollution from mainland China down into Hong Kong. For my entire time in Hong Kong the faint smell of burnt diesel fuel never left my nose.

With my morning spent reading about 200 pages, I decided to head back to the Tsim Sha Tsui market to see if I could get better pictures of the skyline as the weather looked to be clearer.  There was a vendor selling ice cream cones.  The serving sizes seemed, normal unlike in the States where everything is large.

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One of the attractions I missed was the Walk of Stars dedicated to the Chinese film industry.  I didn’t recognize any of the actors, but it was cool to see none the less.

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There is also a major cultural center in the area as well.  The building did have some neat architecture to it.  The light flowing through the triangular pattern was pretty cool.

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What I didn’t understand was why there was so much protest against Falun Gong.  I wasn’t sure what it was at the time (nor really now, comments appreciated)

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I’m trying with the skyline shots here, but the haze is really making it hard.

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The next stop was Victoria Peak. I took the Peak Tram up to the top of the mountain.

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I took the Peak Tram up to the top of the mountain.

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A good friend of mine recommended it over taxi or trying to navigate the bus system.  In a lot of ways the trim is pretty neat. It’s a cable car that pulls you from sea level to nearly 3000 feet. There are several sections of the ride where I felt very much pinned into my seat as the climb was steep. The tram goes directly up the face of the mountain with no switchbacks to ease the pull on the cable. I got up there about 4 o’clock in the afternoon as the line was nearly an hour to get into the top. The smog was in full force but I still was able to appreciate the view.

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I met two interesting photographers up at the top of the hill. One even took my photo! What’s interesting about Hong Kong is it seems like there are many international connections here. One of these photographers was from Switzerland and the other one was from Taiwan. They had met sometime ago and had remained in touch over the distance and years.

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I was able to swap my 24-105 millimeter lens for a fixed 40 to take some photos. The difference was drastic. I found out most of the weight and my camera was actually the lens. Having an f1.4 aperture really makes it fast and fun lens. The great thing is it’s only $150.

As I walked around the shopping complex it was painfully apparent again how western the experience was. All the same brands, all the same shops, all the same merchandise. What topped it off was Bubba Gump.  Really?  Your Hong Kong experience?

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There were a few vendors selling what appeared to be traditional Chinese merchandise marketed for tourists. The whole experience felt westernized. Even the Asian food is packaged in a manner to fit westerners. There was a small shop that had some really interesting hand done Chinese art.  The artist would custom create you a name plate or other design right on the spot.  You could see he was good at what he did.

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The structure at the top of the mountain was pretty impressive though. Victoria Peak is about 1800 feet above sea level. They built a giant multistory mall on top of this mountain. It’s not easy traveling up here and it surprised me how much construction equipment must’ve been here to make this monstrosity.

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I think I was still feeling the jet lag as I hit the wall about 6pm.  I headed down the mountain as it was getting dark. It really was a beautiful sunset though 🙂

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Once back at the bottom of the hill I got an up close look at the cables that run the cable car. It always amazes me how thin steel cables can be yet pull some much weight I’m guessing these were about three quarters of an inch to no more than an inch thick.

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I met some American ex-pats to spend the evening with out on the island. One was from Texas, one was from Ohio, and yet another one was from Iowa. We started off at Amoy Pub and Cafe near Wan Chai for a big glass of Hoegaarten. We then walked over to Oolaa for drinks and dinner. We each had a cajun martini which was quite the experience for this newbie.

Finally we ended up a Time which is the local gay bar in town. The bar very much had both a mixed crowd as well as a neighborhood feel.  There are a few gay bars out on Hollywood Avenue.

I spent some time talking to the expats that lived here about LGBT culture in Hong Kong.  What was interesting to find is that being gay was or more or less accepted in traditional Chinese culture. It may have not been a forefront activity but there wasn’t the stigma associated with it as there is the United States. It wasn’t until the arrival of the British and the Christian tradition that really affected the cultural views on gay issues. Hong Kong file doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, however they are very progressive on gay rights in Asia. There were a number of LGBT outposts in the area that seemed to have at least somewhat of a reasonable following.

I tired out about 1 AM but the rest of the group apparently kept partying until the sun came out the next morning. More power to them. 🙂

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