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.

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