Thursday, February 16, 2012

Happy 3rd Day of Valentines to my lovely wife!

Excellent VD day and then this popped up on the audiogram....

Only some lyrics apply ;-)

Going out each day to score
She was no whore
But for me
Celebrating every day
The way
She thought it should be


She was always by my side
And never tried
To leave
Standing up for me
And like a tree
For what she believed


I include a live version of the song, knowing it will leave those of you without a love for the punk rock exactly where you should be - bored and checking out NBC's evening lineup.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hong Kong - The Day Four

Manana, and we headed back into HK to see if we could get into a bookstore that still seemed to be in business - we could see shelves and shelves of books, just couldn't access them.

Again, no luck, but when we headed to the Starbucks and found an internet connection, we discovered that the bookstore didn’t open until noon. We had been to it just after noon on the first try, but the owner was on Hong Kong time. So, we stalled in the Starbucks and then headed up to our meeting with the editors of the Asian Literary Review for lunch.

Lunch was grand… I talked with Kathleen and Kelly for about 2 hours and I think we worked out some cool projects to collaborate on in the future. More info about that will pop up on the blog as it occurs. Kathleen and Kelly both recommended that we visit Macao the following day (which made Yvonne immoderately happy as this had been in her mind from day one - tomorrow's post will reveal the sickening 'why?' to that). As we were heading near the harbour to see the museum, they also recommended that we have a drink at a hotel (near the museum) called the intercontinental, before we headed back to our hotel in the New Territories.

So we headed back across the harbour to have a beer at the bistro we had visited the previous day, and then off to the museum. We got there and noticed a sign that said “last entry at 5:30.” As we were reading this it was 5:15. We had foolishly assumed that since the sister museum closed at 9pm, this one did as well. This was not true; it closed at 6pm so we were suddenly in a big hurry.

We raced through the museum, which was expansive yet rather maze-like (Yvonne immediately took off towards the horizon with our map, so I was a bit lost at times). The museum was cool, though it seemed to get thinner and thinner the closer it got to the present and the post 1997 era was basically represented by one video, which we were too late to see. Still, it was nice enough, and it turned out Wednesday was “free day,” so we didn’t have to pay anything.
The enormous Ooga, Booga, and Wooga

We walked down towards the tube-station, because we saw from the map that one of the Intercontinental hotels was in that direction. This brought us to the waterfront, though it was obscured by construction. Once in the Intercontinental though, the view was grand, and outside the window we could see the promenade. We ordered a delicious if pricey sampler tray and drinks.
In the background, Yvonne adds her 13th packet of sugar to a cup of tea.

Then, it was out to the promenade, to get a clearer view of Hong Kong across the harbour. A nearly staggering view, with barges, cruise ships, and party boats rolling by regularly.

Sitting by the dock of the bay...

Unfortunately, my evil wife would not let me stop at the "beer deck" for just one more drink, and we staggered off to the hotel.
The unexplored beer shop. :-(

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hong Kong, Day 3

Got up.. had a much better experience on the public transport and headed in to find the bookstores. About half of them are out of business (we intend to go back online and fix these references on the websites where we found them).

We headed up to the offices of the Asia Literary Review. This was an outcome of a previous adventure in Korean literature (short story – they found me through my Korean literature blog and I had some fun conversations with them and LTI Korea in which it became clear that AR and KLTI might have a long and productive partnership in the future. But that’s for the other blog!).
The offices were on Wyndham Road, an old road with the Correspondent’s and artists’ clubs, as well as a variety of swanky restaurants. The Asia Literary Review, it turned out, had awesome 24th floor offices with a view of the hills to the South of the city. We met with Katherine, who I had already met in Seoul, and she gave us a series of quick answers to our questions, and as she had an appointment at 2 we agreed to meet for lunch the next day, and Yvonne and I went off (via a short stop at the bar) to find one last bookstore, and then off to check out museums.

We found the last bookstore out of business and then headed off across the harbor to the Science and History Museums. We got there and discovered that on Tuesdays the History Museum was closed.

No problem, we checked out the Science Museum and discovered that it was open til 9. A bit peckish, we wandered onto the plaza behind the museum and had sushi, deciding NOT to pick up a pack of the shark-fins that was available in a nearby store. Then it was a quick stop at a lovely open-to-the-plaza beer garden and into the Science Museum.

These are evil shark fins.... :-(

Which utterly rocked. It was perfect for children of all ages, with four stories of brilliant exhibits, nearly all of which were interactive. I made an utter ass of myself directing laser beams, having my pulse taken, testing my balance, and cranking a handle that then delivered electrical shocks to Yvonne’s hand. That last thing may have been my favorite museum thing ever, and I just wish I could have cranked the damned thing about 500% faster.^^ Even the sections that seemed utterly retarded and/or prosaic (a section on appliances / a section on energy conservation) had cool stuff to look at and do. Then there were the moving dioramas and the videos of cool things like robot colonoscopies. … uh, robots doing the colonoscopies, as I think that Mitt Romney is the only actual robot in the world with (who is?) an asshole.

ALWAYS get a picture of the dinosaur!

Your colon on Robots!

I think I need to get to the Smithsonian in the US so I have some kind of local comparison, because compared to the museums in Korea and Hong Kong, the ones in California just entirely blow chunks (now the “Blow Chunks” interactive exhibit was a bit alarming!^^)

We wandered back to the hotel and ate at the same restaurant we had the first night, but this time a bit more adventurously.

I watched National Geographic on the TV, while Yvonne trolled the bar for single men.

Later, she moved on to married men.

Then broad-shouldered women.^^

Thursday, February 09, 2012

HK Day 2

Day one, we headed into Hong Kong to try to find some used bookstores. This was a comedy of miniature errors as we figured out the transportation system and tried to figure out where the hell we were. This effort was complicated by the fact that we couldn’t find a tourist map of Hong Kong at all. Even in the subways and at the bus terminals, there were no maps. Yvonne randomly buttonholed confused (and soon angry) Hong Kongians, and we set of resolutely in the wrong direction, ending up back at the same subway station from which we had exited.

I had some Google maps, but they didn’t seem to fit much of the lay of the land. We did accidentally find one of the bookstores, but it turned out to only have new books, which wasn’t quite what we were after. As we wandered, confused by what our Google maps showed us – a lovely satellite view – and what we were seeing where we wandered – enormous buildings combined with waves of less than enormous people blocking our view, we realized that we saw several signs leading to local landmarks that we had planned to visit later. Wit the bookstores not working out we quickly switched our plans to visiting the obvious tourist attractions. First, we found the peak tram, a train that runs from lower-ish Hong Kong to the peak above it, and decided to take it.

Tram coming in to pick us up

Yvonne on tram

A wise decision as it turned out. The tram was splendid and at the top there was a Mall(!) which included a bunch of restaurants, free wireless, brilliant views (it give you an idea of how vertical Hong Kong really is) AND MAPS! But, really, it was all about the views. And the map.
So we grabbed a map, hung out and acted cool, and snapped photos.

Hong Kong from above

Then it was down the big hill and off to find the Mid-Level Escalators about which the mighty Wikipedia says

The Central–Mid-levels escalators in Hong Kong is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. The entire system covers over 800 metres in distance and elevates over 135 metres from bottom to top.[1] It was constructed in 1993 to provide a better commute by linking areas within the Central and Western District on Hong Kong Island.[2]

At the bottom of the escalators we took a look at my file of bookstores and discovered one, “Flow,” was partway up the escalators. We got off to look for it and it was gone, replaced by a bookstore that sold new books. But as we walked back to the Mid-levels, I spotted a small cloth sign that said the store had moved up the hill about a block. We wandered up and found it. Incredibly crowded, but with that cool used-bookstore vibe you’re always looking for. I did my quick search for Korean translated works, came up empty, and as Yvonne kept digging, I headed back down under the escalator a half a block to Cochranes Bar which featured an open front and pigeons roaming around on the floor. It was a complete expat dive, with foreign beer and Deep Purple, Sting, and other drinking sounds of my youth playing on the stereo.

Bottom of the Mid-Levels

I got some internet at Cochranes, and started downloading Google maps of the bookstores and putting them together with our new map of the city. This would all help us the next day, when we planned to win the war to find used bookstores in Hong Kong.

After all that, we got back on the Mid-level escalators and went all the way to the top, which really was some way and ran by some rather interesting expat-y neighborhoods. Then, with the escalators going up, we walked down in a slight rain.

Finally hungry, when we got to the bottom we headed to a bar run by Filipinas for some beer and really quite good western food (Hong Kong crushes Korea in this regard). Then it was back to the hotel for a bit of rest and a plan for the next day.

One interesting thing is that hallyu has definitely hit out here. At the mall on top of the peak, all the video goodies for sale were showing K-pop videos, some of the television channels were playing K-pop, choco-pies^^ were abundant, and I even managed to snap a picture of a bus advertising Korea as a tourist destination.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

On the Way To Hong Kong....

The flight was far too early, as it always seems to be.. we woke up at 5:30 am and grabbed a cab. Then it was to Seoul Station and the AREX train to Incheon. Incheon, as usual, splendid. Then on to our first flight, which was spoiled by a hideous young boy… Korean parents… kid screaming and fighting with his parents, at one point physically fighting with the mother, and the father pretty much checking out by putting on headphones.

One of the top 10 or 20 bad kids I’ve ever been near on a flight.

As we finally descended into Shanghai, Yvonne noticed something weird about the weather. She noticed that there were two layers of clouds, we burst through one, then could see, some distance below, the next layer.

The plane entered the second layer of clouds and.. THUNK, hit the ground about 70 seconds later.

There was only one layer of clouds, and then a layer of pollution of epic proportions. As we taxied across the tarmac, buildings at the airport would fade in and out of view. There was about half a kilometer of visibility.

We langoliered our way into the airport and settled in for our 6 hour layover. The airport was entirely set up to sell duty-free goods. There were few restaurants, no such thing as a convenience store, and the employees in the duty free shops would come out and shill at the slightest eye contact. I suspect they worked partly on commission. Or fear.
Reasons I already hate China:

  • ALL the bill denominations have the same picture of Mao on them. Really, that’s the most creative thing you could do?
  • Shanghai is an air-polluted stenchhole
  • The airport is run on randomness and the clear need to get hard currency from foreigners.
  • The Internet is enslaved and there is no Google search, Facebook, etc..
  • The goddamned airport bar was closed for renovation!

It is an OUTRAGE!

On the positive side, you could buy Tsingtao beer from vending machines, so I became progressively happier.

Yvonne wandered off to look for books, and with about 40 minutes to boarding time I headed to the gate. Which was entirely shut down with nothing on the boards. This confused me, so I headed off and finally found an information booth which told me that the flight had been changed to another gate.

No mention over the intercom, and not one bit of information about the change at the actual gate. As I found Yvonne at the gate a bit later, we noticed a stream of people wandering from gate to gate, looking confused.

I talked to several of them, and they were all looking for different flights that had been changed without notification.

Gathering Yvonne up and going to our new gate, we were quickly informed (well, not told, of course we had to go up and ask and the delay was never announced or listed on the board) that the flight was late… pollution had destroyed visibility to the point that flights were being delayed.

The entire airport experience was beyond lame and if something like this ever happened at Incheon, the manager would likely be shamed into suicide.

We landed late, caught a shuttle bus to the hotel, and snatched a quick dinner at the enormous shopping mall attached to the hotel. The Harbour Plaza is a bit too far from Hong Kong island, but it’s rather brilliant on its own merits.