Sunday, August 31, 2008

Month 1; Hong Kong



This weekend, I didn't play tourist for the first time since I've been here. Instead, I had a mellow couple days, including a boat trip with some family friends today.  So while I don't have anything too exciting to share, I do have a few small tidbits of observations.

I was having a conversation about how the waters surrounding Hong Kong have been severely over fished in recent years, and the local fishermen are therefore not able to earn a living anymore.  While this sad fact appears quite true, this weekend I came across a new type of fisherman - two guys on a boat with nets, fishing garbage out of the harbor - which they then presumably are able to sell to a recycling plant or something similar. I find it remarkable how, with the right incentives, cleanup efforts can become a business.

As mentioned I visited some family friends for lunch today. I had to take a taxi to the south side of the island, and as my tweet mentions, I didn't have much faith in the cabbie. While it took awhile to find the place, I have to say the patience that the driver had was remarkable and he even had his dispatcher relay when the language barrier became too much to deal with.

Tonight I also went to the Michigan Alumni meet-up to watch the football game. The showing was fairly good, with about a dozen people in attendance. While time delayed, I did manage not to peak, and was surprised by moments of promise that the team showed. Sadly, the slingbox that the bar was using, cut off the last 5 mins of the game, but I'm told I didn't miss much. Next week, we are hoping to be able to watch the game live - let me know if you're in Hong Kong and want to watch...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

HKD 13.97

7-11 is the convenient store on every corner here. Much like in the US, the staff leaves to be desired in most cases. To their credit, they seem to be largely bi-lingual (Canto & English), so maybe I should cut them some slack. Nonetheless, the guy working at the 7-11 in my building consistently does the following: he'll ring up my purchase, which will come to $13.97, and then say to me $19.37, or $17.42 and say $14.72 (so it's not always to my detriment, which leads me to think he's not trying to swindle me).

I wonder if in Canto the number orders are said differently - much like in German - or if my sales clerk needs a refresher in English. Anyone know?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

the Asia version of

As I've come to know Hong Kong a bit better, and am less preoccupied by my surroundings, I've started looking at the thousands of people constantly surrounding me. As I look at these strangers, I've found myself often thinking "huh, if so and so were Asia; that's what he'd look like", and even more bizarrely how he would act. I don't know whether it is me missing home and wishfully imagining, but it has become a fun new game to play as I roam the streets.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Kowloon


Yesterday, I jumped on the Star Ferry for the quick ride over to Kowloon. The ferry was quite enjoyable, and for HKD 1.70, it's hardly expensive. It's a bit more "authentic" than Central, according to some - but to me it just seemed like an expanse of malls and small shops selling more trinkets. While I'm sure some of the Indian tailors who try and convince you to buy their wares make very nice shirts, being solicited on the street is just not that appealing to me; and reminds me a bit of walking down the street in Hamburg... but for a different reason...

As I already mentioned, I spent Friday stuck inside because of another typhoon (this one got up to T9). Beyond that, this week has been fairly uneventful, as I've continued to sweat in the heat and humidity.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Weekend Reading Aug 22

Weekend reading;

  • Sponsoring Recklessness (The New Yorker)

  • Venture Capital Survey Silicon Valley First Quarter 2008 (Fenwick)

  • Dr. Doom (NYT)

  • Venture Capital Awakens In City That Never Sleeps ($$$ - WSJ)

     

  • History of Kowloon (various)


    Happy weekend, happy Typhoon day

 

Typhoon! #2

We are again at Typhoon 8. I am sitting in my apartment, and there are sheets of rain coming down outside. Seems less windy than the last one, but I can't see Kowloon - which normally seems a stone throw away. In preparation for this one, I stocked up on food last night, and tried to be adventurous by buying some of the more "local" foods. I'm convinced it's a matter of preparation, but the dumplings I bought were terrible. Thankfully toast is broadly toast here like it is at home.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Same Old

In talking with a friend, I was recently reminded that I used to write about "boring" things. While I am now on the far side of the world and supplied with plenty of exciting things to write about, my old interests certainly haven't suddenly vanished. I thought a few comments on the small Hong Kong entrepreneur were therefore in order.

I live on Hollywood Road, which is the heart of the antique district. There are countless little shops, presumably sole proprietorships, which sell everything from upmarket antiques to copies of the little red book and towels with pictures of Mao on them. While I certainly expect there are people who buy from these places, it amazes me that so many try to start these businesses, and I'd be curious to know how successful they are. In the end it must be a question of supply and demand, but nonetheless I am surprised by the numbers on the supply side.

As I've mentioned a few times now, on Sundays all the domestic workers have the day off and congregate around Central. On first glance there are thousands of woman relaxing and playing cards on their day off. Upon a closer look, it is apparent that there are a range of entrepreneurs capitalizing on this market. These range from more formal marketing events by corporations featuring raffles and concerts, to women providing services to each other like manicures and pedicures or selling knock off purses.

I suppose the lesson out of this is there are opportunities everywhere, it's just a question of seeing them and then capitalizing. I am, however, still in search of a start-up tech scene.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Victoria Peak - Pictures

 
Pictures from my journey up to Victoria Peak. The views were quite nice, however the bus ride up was a tad scary as the incline is severe and the bus driver seemed whole indifferent to diving with any caution.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Kuan Yin & Sui Tsing Pak Temples - Week 3

On Wednesday, I may have eaten cat. I'm not sure, but it's possible. I ordered half a rotisserie chicken, and when it was delivered started in on my dinner without much thought. About half-way through my meal, I realized that the meat didn't exactly have the characteristics I would expect of chicken: there was no drum stick, there were no chicken bones, and there wasn't the crispy chicken skin - There were two fairly large pieces of white meat. I'll leave it as mystery meat at best, cat at worst.

Last night I bounced around a few bars on LKF. The best part was the roof deck at the LKF hotel.


Today, I went neighborhood shopping trying to find an apartment. I spent some time this morning in Happy Valley, which is where the horse track is on Hong Kong island. While quite nice, it's a bit too far out and a bit too local for me I think.

This afternoon I walked around the area right by my apartment, and shot a few pictures. A few interesting things I found out:

- I live on the corner of Hollywood Rd. and Possession St., which is where the British orriginally planted the Union Jack when they landed.

- The neighborhood was razed in the late 1800s due to plauge.

- There are two temples down the street from me, I took the time today and stuck my head into Sui Tsing Pak Temple, which honors the pacifying general. Next door is Kuan Yin Temple. It honors the god of mercy, which is apparently popular amongst prostitute.

I also tried to take the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak; but the line was entirely too long for me so I'll have to take the bus up at some point.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Blah Blah Blah

I was saying today that I'm forgetting some of the random things that I encounter, so before they slip my mind:

- I keep hearing the phrase "blah blah blah" used by people to describe locals talking. It seems a bit derogatory when it's used - but I can't quite figure it out.

- The cars drive on the other side of the road, but I still get in on the right, which means when they pull over (to the left) I get out and step into traffic.

- The market has a dumpling section and a ramen section that fills an entire isle.

- I live by a street called "cat street" and it is actually full of stray cats.

- It never stops raining - and it rains hard.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Junk Cruise & Macau - Week 2 in Hong Kong

I've already mentioned (and here) the Typhoon (level 8) that rolled through, so I wont go into that again. Simply suffice it to say that it rained - a lot. Even on Thursday (the day after) and I got drenched.

The week at work went well, and I'm starting to hit a groove.

On Friday night I went for a few beers, and watched the start of the Olympics. In the bar it was quite nice - the diverse audience here meant that people were cheering for just about every country that came out. In stark contrast, if I switch on the TV at home I can't even find a live broadcast of the events (so I've resorted to my sling box).

Saturday, I was invited along to a Junk Cruise. Essentially a day out on the ocean, with a load of booze and some really good food. Afterwards we went to Wan Chai for a few beers, which I am told is also the place for something"quick and easy." The bar scene was good, but it was strange to see the, shall we say, women of the night selling their wares.

Unfortunately, my third local meal, consumed on the Junk, did not sit well, and you can guess how my day today was. I did venture out on the ferry to Macau so I could activate my visa. The hour on the ferry was interesting and I snapped a few pictures. I will have to venture back to actually roam around and see everything up close and personal.

Observations:
- I found out that my "right to stay right" observation is actually widely recognized and has an actual name: "The Hong Kong Sway"
- The office has all sorts of juice box local drinks; I've been trying them slowly, and had the "Lemon and Honey" drink, it tasted terrible.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Typhoon! - in pictures

 
A few shots from my window today. Largely uneventful, but certainly a few good gusts and more rain than I have ever seen come down that quick, but as my boss pointed out; no A/C units flying past...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Typhoon!

 
I woke up to a level 8 typhoon warning this morning, which means work is canceled. More humorously, in the official warning about the storm, the government reminds:
4. Since seas are rough, you are advised to stay away from
the shoreline and not to engage in water sports.

5. Owners of neon signs are reminded that they should now
arrange for the electricity supply to their signs to be cut
off.
So I'm trapped in my apartment for the moment - we'll see what comes next.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

More Pictures - Aug 3

I'm trying to spend the better part of 1 day per week being a tourist, we'll see how long that lasts. Here are my pictures from todays exploration on Causeway Bay - a nearby shopping district - and Stanley - a water front town on Hong Kong's southern coast.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Hong Kong

I have now spent my first week in Hong Kong, and continue to stumble around without a proper sense of which way is up. I arrived last Sunday, and walked off the plane after my 16+ hours of flying, to be hit by a wall of heat and humidity. For a moment I relaxed, thinking I was at the start of a Caribbean vacation, only to be pulled back to reality when confronted with the throngs of people streaming around me.

The drive into Hong Kong took about 30 minutes, and went over the "Golden Gate Bridge of Hong Kong" and through Kowloon. All of it had a gritty industrial feel to it. As you can see from the pictures, the apartment I'm staying in is small but quite nice, and is slowly starting to feel comfortable.

I went on a longer walk last weekend, which took me through Central, which is the main finance center. On Sundays, many of the house staff have their day off, and they congregate in this area. As a consequences I spent much of the time wading through women sitting on sidewalks.

Work kicked off Monday, and I'll suffice it to say that it started with a bang and hasn't really stopped. There's a lot to do, and not enough sets of hands.

Friday night saw me at an Indonesian restaurant, where the food was good, but my stomach wasn't quite prepared. I suspect this will be a recurring theme in the coming weeks and months. After dinner, I was shown Lan Kwai Fong, which is one of the main drags of bars, and includes a German bar by the name of Schnurbart (Mustache). Last night I started off in SOHO (South of Hollywood) at an Irish pub, and was then swept along to two different "members" clubs. The clubs were essentially clubs as I would know them from NY, only a bit smaller and trying to be a bit more elite.

A few other first impressions:
- I tower over people.
- It is constantly hot - resulting in me wanting to take 4 - 5 showers a day.
- In NY it's "right to go right" when you're walking towards someone on the sidewalk, because that's what cars do. I therefore expected it to be "right to go left," but as with a lot of things here it's just keep walking straight...

side notes:
I've taken flickr out of the stream as I don't want to swamp it with pictures, but will let you know when new ones go up.
My US cell phone is setup to forward to here, local call for everyone at home, don't be strangers (but do remember the 12hr time difference from NY).