Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe

Beware of a moving gangplank

The Airport Express is clean, efficient and reveals the boggling culture mix of Hong Kong. As we pass the waterfront there's a junk and then huge tall, densely packed apartment blocks towering up like a Sheckley or Ballard novel made concrete. I'm tired enough to feel the culture shock that curiosity usually insulates me from. Tugboats pulling derricks, cruise ships, a 2km tunnel, more and more buildings. The train connects to the shuttle which takes us to the hotel where the room isn't quite ready - it is still 9am - and Simon walks in the park while I doze on a sofa. When I actually drop off, with a pashmina over my knee against the fierce air conditioning, looking like a street person, the concierge apologetically says 'here in the hotel it is not permitted to sleep'. But with me littering up the lounge the room is ready a few minutes later :) So we tumble into bed for a couple of hours.

Simon remembers the way to Times Square through the fruit market (which also sells fish, underware, hair clips &etc) but not which of the umpteen restaurants he had dim sum in so I pick the one with the nicest lamps which looks familiar. As I don't read any chinese at all, it will be known as The First One Off The Escalator on floor 9. Nice dim sum and a fascinating hierarchy of the waiter who brings the food (in a white uniform) and the black clad waiter who puts it on the table. When we sit down, three waiters swoop down to clear the extra settings, bring menus and offer tea. Damp flannels rather than napkins on the table - very handy.

Then down into the bowels of the MTR. The train indicators are excellent on the train itself. The Airport Express lights up the route in blue so you can see how far between stations you and flashes the next station. The MTR shows all the lines at eye level in the carriage, with the next station flashing, a light for exit this side or exit other side and a light to show which direction the train is going in. Plus when you get to a station that's an interchange the whole line it's connected to flashes. Nifty. The advertising is an odd mix of utter consumerism, cheesy panto adds and earnest through worthy charity ads.

We took the Star ferry across to Kowloon. Speedy wooden ferries that take 8 minutes on this short route - remind me a lot of the Mersey ferries. Walked on the viewing platform gazing at the skyscrapers and tugs, derricks, ferries, junks and the rest of the boats busily sailing by. With the local police station in a metal container, derricks that whole families live on and a post industrial mix of old, new and repurposed it feels like the background to a slipstream novel. (Cyberpunk says Simon but to me it's a slew of familiar worlds grown strange and unfamiliar elements that feel right at home. The out of place but close at hand - anyone remember The Chinese Detective? Far away is close at hand in dreams of elsewhen. )

Nathan Street might be best by night with the neon glow: by day the touts for tailors, cameras, copy watches, foot massage and the rest are overwhelming. We ducked into Kowloon park by the mosque and watched parrots and butterflies swooping over a fountain. Back at the Star ferry terminal we grabbed a mandarin lemon tea and watched the sun paint a golden path across the water, gilding fishing lines hanging from the pier.

The bus up to the Peak Tram goes 'every ten or twenty minutes' ie when the driver feels like it. A long queue for the tram and a wax Jackie Chan at the ticket office. The tram is a funicular - very like the Wellington cable car even to the colour! - but steeper. Especially when it stops at a station and you're hanging there at 45 degrees or more. Great views as the tram pulls to the top and after six rounds of walking past souvenir shops (cheap tat is cheap and not that tatty in many of them), passing a globe of shiny coloured lights they're still building we were up on the viewing deck watching the city light up. The Centre, Simon's favourite building - and now mine - cycles colours up the side - red to yellow to purple to blue to green to purple to red.

Mango and pear juice from the juice bar with the fruit train - a ceiling level train pulling along a caboose of fruit - then more view gazing. Balloons bob and tug at their strings in the wind. Dinner at the Peak Lookout in the garden - warm, windy, scenic. Pretty with the lights, huge with the portions.

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