Hong Kong Day 1 - (Octo)Pus and Guts

1 October 2009

Wednesday 30th September

For breakfast I had a “congee with assorted pig’s organs”, as the English translation on the menu so appetisingly put it. A congee is a kind of savoury rice pudding. The pig’s organs were exactly that - bits of liver and something tubey, possibly intestine? Who knows. There was also something that might have been tripe, or might have just been some really fatty pork. Fortunately there was bacon in it as well. At least, it tasted like bacon. I think I may have been a bit too adventurous for breakfast. Luckily the rice pudding bit was pleasantly filling, so I didn’t go hungry, but I kind of wish I’d just gone for the chicken or the beef like the others did. I should have known really that it wasn’t going to be the easiest thing to eat - there’s a good reason why menus don’t say “assorted pig’s organs” back in England. We prefer them mashed up into what we call “sausages”.

We picked up an “Octopus” card from a subway station. It’s much like London’s Oyster card, a pre-pay transport smartcard that removes the hassle of buying tickets. I wonder if all such smartcards have aquatic names and/or begin with the letter “O”?

We spent the day exploring more of Kowloon. We took a stroll through the Goldfish Market, which is really just a street of pet shops. The fish weren’t too exciting - exactly the same as the varieties you can see in any fish shop in Britain.

We spent a while trying to find the computer market, being sent one way and then the opposite several times by the people we asked for directions. We found it eventually, but as with the goldfish it wasn’t particularly exciting -nothing you couldn’t get in the UK, and not amazingly cheaper either. The main reason we wanted to find the computer market was for some free wi-fi. Although the hostel has free wi-fi, it’s possibly the slowest internet connection available in the entire world. Maybe because it’s unsecured so everyone in this huge residential block is using it to download pirated films, or maybe it’s connected to a man in a booth using morse code to tap out messages to the other side of the globe, but it’s so slow it’s almost unusable. I was expecting Hong Kong to be so full of free wi-fi that cups of water would spontaneously boil from all the microwave radiation, but that unfortunately appears not to be the case. Sadly the wi-fi in the computer market was barely faster than the hostel.

We went to a shopping centre called Langham Place which is in a big tower with long escalators, and had a quick snack of chicken wings, scallops and wasabi dumplings. There was an astrology installation which told me my forecast for September was that I would meet a new love interest in the course of an educational activity. Fortunately for Rachel, with only a few hours left of September at that point, it was an unlikely outcome.

We took a quick ride on the subway one stop from Mong Kok to Prince Edward to go to a bar where we drank Tsingtao beer and cocktails, and a snack of duck’s tongues which left everybody wishing we’d ordered something different instead. We then went to a pretty good sushi place and then at last we finally found a decent free wi-fi connection, although we had to resort to a McDonald’s “McCafe” to get it. But at least we’d got our internet fix.

We returned to the hostel and flicked through some of the Chinese TV channels. Will has been teaching Nick some of the Chinese characters. Nick seems to think he will be able to figure out the entire language if he asks enough questions. I think it might take a while.

I quite liked the variety of adverts. During just one break, there were ads for:

  • an aloe vera, jelly and apple tea drink. Sounds mad.
  • a laser mouse. Don’t think I’ve ever seen an ad for a computer mouse on TV before.
  • a really slick advert for a night school. The fees must be absolutely ridiculous for them to make such expensive adverts. They have some huge billboards around too.
  • Injured at work? Mercifully only one of these.
  • Something warning us to beware of landslides.

Compare this to your typical British advert break:

  • Car insurance comparison site
  • Ocean Finance
  • Car insurance comparison site
  • “Allo mate. Car insurance eh? What can you do?”
  • Car insurance comparison site

Then changing to a music channel for a few seconds to find they’re showing the same adverts, then:

  • Car insurance comparison site
  • Compare the market
  • Compare the meerkat
  • Compare the merkin
  • Compare the mollusc
  • Car insurance comparison site
  • Car insurance comparison site

Then shooting yourself in the face.

So it’s nice that I’ve been able to get away from all that and put it from my mind while I’m on holiday.