Monthly Archives: December 2010

New Year in Beijing / 在北京过元旦

Happy New Year! 祝你元旦快乐!

I’m still not sure what the Gregorian Calendar new year means to people here. Officially people get the day off work and I expected that people would take advantage of the opportunity to go out and have a party, as they do in Hong Kong for both Christmas and New Year. However, in the bar district I visited tonight there wasn’t much going on. Perhaps it was too cold.

Here’s what I did for New Year 2011. Since Chinese New Year is typically celebrated in northern China by eating dumplings, I invited a friend to join me at a fine dumpling restaurant. After that we mixed the Chinese tradition with a western tradition and headed down to a bar district to ring in the new year with some cocktails.

At the cocktail bar we got roped into helping the owner locate an online countdown clock. I couldn’t find a countdown clock that included audio, so with less than 20 seconds to go I dragged one of the house singers over to the computer to manually announce the countdown on the microphone. The owner had stepped outside for a smoke so she missed it.

Since we were helping the owner run her business, I figured we should get something for it, so I went up to the bar and asked the owner for some free drinks. At first she was reluctant but then she came over with a few free drinks and started chatting to us. We wound up the evening listening to the remaining patrons singing karaoke using the bar’s computer as a karaoke machine.

So that was my New Year celebration in Beijing. Not bad since I threw the plan together only two days ahead of time.


Tian Tan Grand Buddha / 天壇大佛

Today I went out to Lantau Island, where Disneyland is located, not to visit the magical kingdom, but to see the Grand Buddha. This is a famous landmark which you’ve probably seen in movies. I went out by subway and came back by ferry, just for a change of scenery. This also gave me the opportunity to make a quick visit to the village of Mui Wo and see a somewhat different part of Hong Kong.

Today was my last day in Hong Kong. Tomorrow I fly back to Beijing where I’ll continue working and studying Mandarin until mid-February. After that I’ll be heading to India (assuming I obtain the consent of the ever benevolent Indian bureaucracy) for a friend’s wedding. I will be back in Hong Kong in March as this is where my return flight departs from, so if you like Hong Kong, come back for more in March. I might also take a side-trip to Taiwan when I come back to HK. But don’t leave yet, I’ll have plenty more stories to tell about mainland China in the meantime.


Man Mo Temple & the Streetcars / 文武庙和电车

On Sunday morning I met up with my friend and former colleague Ellery, his wife Athena and their daughter Fiona. These are the friends I previously told you introduced me to snake soup. I first went with Ellery and Fiona to the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Rd.. I wanted to see this temple, after seeing so many in China, because I read both members of the police force and members of the triads frequent this temple to worship. I discovered that the Man Mo temples are dedicated to the god of martial arts, so I suppose that makes sense.

After we ate our snake soup, I went off to ride the double-decker streetcars. This was an amusing bit of sightseeing and I probably spent about two hours riding them.

In the evening I went to a district called Wan Chai for supper. Wan Chai is a kind of red-light district, but there are some good restaurants and bars there. After supper I wandered along the street and every time I passed a certain type of bar, a middle-aged woman would grab me by the arm and invite me to come in for a drink and to talk to a “pretty lady.” I never imagined I’d meet middle-aged female pimps. In case you’re wondering, no I didn’t stick around to find out if the pretty ladies are any prettier than the pimps.


Hong Kong Money / 港币

Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) are the oddest currency I’ve ever seen. Every
bank prints its own money and the bills are interchangeable. These
twenty dollar bills are printed by Standard Chartered and HSBC. Hong
Kong does have a central bank, but I’m not sure what it does. You can’t
tell from the picture, but the ten dollar bill is made of plastic. All
the ten dollar bills I’ve seen are printed by the HK SAR Government. No
other bills are printed by the government and I don’t know who mints the


Snake Soup / 蛇汤


Yesterday I tasted snake soup. It was quite good. My friend and former
colleague, Ellery, and his wife Athena introduced me to it. Athena is
originally from Hong Kong. It’s always good to have local friends,
because then you get to try things like this that you would never find


Accommodation in HK / 我在香港的房间

Here’s a video I made of my room here in HK. This is definitely the smallest hostel room I’ve ever had, and one of the most expensive. I think a place I stayed in London a few years ago was probably more expensive on a square foot basis. This place I’ve got is 6′ X 8′ and has no windows. It’s just like a jail cell except that I’m paying for the privilege of staying here, and I cane come and go as I please. In any case, it’s clean, convenient, and has hot water & wifi. The only problem is that I can’t get any cell phone reception in my room.


Christmas Eve in HK / 中国香港的圣诞节前夕

Christmas Eve was my first full day of touring around in Hong Kong.
Seems like nothing closes here at Christmas. I took the famous Star
Ferry from Kowloon across to Hong Kong Island. On my way to Victoria
Mountain, I passed by the Legislative Council, St. John’s Church, the
Court of Final Appeal and the headquarters of the HK Special
Administrative Region (SAR). Tourists weren’t allowed into any of these
sights. Sounds like I covered a lot of ground, but in fact, they’re all
very close together. I rode the Peak Tram up to the top of Victoria
Mountain, and found there are two shopping centres at the top!

I also saw something I’ll never see in the rest of China: a protest. It
seems people are upset with the executives at Standard Chartered Bank,
but beyond that I have no idea what it was about. There was also a small
protest going on outside the SAR offices, but I’m not sure if it was
related or not.

In the evening a friend and former colleague, Bernard, invited me to
dinner with his family. That was a real pleasure. It’s not much fun
being alone at Christmas, but I was warmly welcomed by his family and in
typical Christmas tradition, I ate way too much.

It seems Christmas is a party here almost as big as New Year’s. Many
streets in Kowloon and on HK Island were blocked off in the evening.
There were police everywhere and a very organized system of managing the
enormous crowds. I went down to one of the nightlife districts to see
what it was all about. Unfortunately it was so busy that I couldn’t get
into any of the bars, and spent the “countdown” in one of the crowd
control lineups. Yes, there is a Christmas countdown here. I’m not sure
what it’s about but everyone let out a big cheer at midnight.