But in life when you don’t run with the choices you have them pile on you.
In short, I got ready to fly out armed with a coupla t-shirts, jeans, walking shoes, and a formal outfit or two. For me that was akin to roughing it. And boy did I regret this haphazard way of traveling or what.
Landing at Hong Kong international airport to have Chinese signs staring out at me from all corners and finding quadruplets and sextuplets (which is how a foreigner must feel when he lands in India or close to it at least) since everyone resembled the other I went around in circles till i saw a Sardarji and followed him to the immigration channel.
Bang, bing..visa on arrival and I was out.
Traveling in the Red Taxi immediately made me feel at home. The driver was as rash and surly as my neighbourhood autowalla. I was lucky to have landed during clement weather. All around me the fog was lifting to reveal beautifully green hillocks, the harbor with its ferries and a city that was gearing up for action.
I was hooked, and couldn’t wait to explore.
I had managed to do just enough googling to know there were markets to explore, disneyland to play princess in and roadside eating joints to get adventurous and of course do a James Bond and land in Macau at night.
I chose the smoking section at the Marriott knowing that they would give me a room far away from civilisation and with the best possible view, and for once, my bet paid off. I got to stay on the 40th floor and have signages from Olympus, Nikon and Sony greet me every night while the red taxis played ants keeping me company during the day. The city survives on its MTR, red taxis and buses.
And I sure was grateful for it.
1st day the painkillers lulled me to sleep and lethargy did the rest so not much of sightseeing, but the days that followed I more than made up.
Tip for the 1st time traveller: ALWAYS, always carry a good pair of walking shoes and comfortable floaters. After the last trip to Dubai were I ended up with swollen feet and red ankles having trudged in stylishly heeled boots, I learnt my lesson.
I got see all these but what made this trip unforgettable were the streets of Hong Kong.
It seemed like every single person, young or old had stepped out of a Vogue magazine. A youth population obsessed with their smart phones and gaming also took pains to communicate in communicate while the older generation just shook their head with blank looks. I was riveted by this boy traveling on the MTR and wished I could enter him in the NYT Fashion Contest.
Since this was a shoe string budget I didnt shop around in malls, and if you seen one mall you seen ’em awl, is what i believe 😀
Beating the streets was more fun than I could begin to describe. I was lucky to find a good fellow traveller who just needed kegs of beer and a few sticks to keep him going.
Some tips while shopping in the bazaars of Hong Kong:
Buy porcelain, intricately carved thingummies, fetish dinky donks, toothpick holders, jade, and all the exotic Chinese ware but stay clear of electronic goods unless you are ok with them dying a natural death after 2 days (made in China you see)
Never shy away from bargaining.
Don’t feel bad at driving a hard bargain, coz you never win but atleast get the satisfaction of a good deal
Start with asking whatever you want for a tenth of the price quoted. Watch with glee as the Cal-C is whipped out and you see a price that is half of what was originally quoted.
If you aren’t willing to pay that amount, walk away.
No hard feelings
Always, always sport a smile.
Chances are the gal or guy at the stall will run after you and manhandle you back to the stall
This is wooing at its best (Believe me even Bambubhai never wooed as hard or as smooth)
After you arrive at a mutually agreeable price
Smiles all around and a faux Burberry bag is yours with the goodies inside
Now for the food:
I don’t think authentic Chinese is every body’s cup of congee (which is like Kanji that mum makes).
Stir clear of stalls selling what looks like glue doughs (usually pork mince steamed and coated with real stinky sauce)
Try their momos and lotus sheets stuffed with sea food, veggies, chicken, etc..
If you go to Mong Kok market don’t forget to try food at the open air stalls. Fresh sea food snared in the net and cooked just for you, now it can’t get more special than that
Be sure to taste their desserts, just right and not goeyily sweet
Enjoy the sights and sounds but be prepared for some surliness as well. Methinks the frustration at not being able to understand the tongue brings out the gritted teeth.Imagine watching Two and a Half Men minus the dialogues!!
Oh yes, before I sign off be wary of the Sardarjis, at least the elderly ones, who offer to buy you a cuppa coffee and then flick open their wallets to give you a card that reads: Immigration Consultant 😉