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Taiwan / Hong Kong / Singapore - March/April 2011 - Page 1

Day 1 - Friday, 25 March 2011

Adelaide to Melbourne

Do you like photos of food? Do you like photos of planes? Do you like photos of food on a plane? If no then piss off because this will be boring as hell.
After 9 or so months since my last mission to pollute the worlds upper atmosphere with radioactive carbon, its time for me to head off again, this time to Hong Kong, then Taiwan, then Singapore, possibly with Macau and Malaysia side trips, who knows.

First of all I have to get to Hong Kong, luckily Adelaide has a direct flight (except it doesnt), unluckily the direct flight goes via Melbourne, which is almost exactly in the wrong direction.
Still, boarding in Adelaide and doing the whole customs thing there is very easy, since its a rural backwater well practiced at people leaving the place, permanently. So their customs teams are well drilled. There was no line and it took seconds.

The initial 1 hour flight from Adelaide to Melbourne was uneventful, the seats are interesting, pictures contained below.

Before getting on the plane, I used the Adelaide Qantas club. This isnt a fancy one, its shared for domestic and international travellers, business and poor people alike.
I guess I am not normally there at lunch time, the food is no different to afternoons though, and the coffee machine was busted as usual.

Heres my plane, Cathay Pacific A330-300. Apparently their 100th plane, I thought they had more.

I took a second photo of the same plane, this happens a lot at the start of these things, eventually I get bored of planes and stop. But for now you have to put up with it.

My plane has an airbag built into the seatbelt. I cant figure out how this would work. I left my blackberry on and tried to make it connect to wifi constantly hoping it would cause the plane to crash so I could see what the airbag did.

Melbourne Airport

There was some confusion arriving at Melbourne airport. The chief trolley dolly (air hostess) announced that passengers had to stay on the plane. This was the opposite of what we were told when we boarded.
She even asked people to be considerate of the cleaners by moving their belongings, and to not use the bathroom.
Eventually she made the embarassing corrective announcement that in Australia, unlike North Korea or Yemen, you are indeed allowed off the plane into the transit lounge.

This was good news indeed, as it means I can go into the Qantas first class lounge for lunch, with all the people travelling in full business suits dissapointed the lounge dragons let me in to de value their $30,000 plane flight experience.

Heres a random shot of the kitchen, despite generally being brave when it comes to taking photos in public, the lounge is pretty high class and empty, so I feel a bit sheepish.
Not to worry, a very gay man offered me the free day spa treatment, involving an aromatherapy massage and hot rock treatment (seriously, theres a free dayspa, and he really did offer, multiple times, guess he was bored).
Slightly wary that my famous good looks could get me into trouble with the Malaysian Fabio masseusse, I declined.

For lunch, I had salt and pepper squid, with mixed greens. Was very tasty. The menu is extensive, a lot of fois gras and wagyu etc. But I have to sit on a plane for 9 hours now so I thought something light would be better.
So I picked battered and deep fried squid as the light option...
Theres also home made ice cream with weird stuff in it, I wanted to try it but was full.

Welcome to Hong Kong

The flight was ok. Seats on Cathay Pacific planes are not the best, very hard, and they dont really lay back, instead the cushion moves fowards and downwards. I actually prefer this as I rarely lay back in the chair and it annoys me when the person in front of me lays their seat right back preventing me from eating etc.
However, my rather large ass lost all feeling quite early on in the process.
There was no turbulence for the whole flight, the crew were attentive even though the plane was 100% full.
Theres plenty of boring food pictures below, and there will be plenty more on other upcoming flights, as I warned.

Next to me on the plane (in economy cattle class), I had a chinese grandma and two twin chinese boys, probably 3 years old. They were very well behaved but there was one funny incident, most people on the plane were asleep and its pitch black, and one of these kids is watching an animated movie.
I am not sure what happened in his movie but he got very animated and started yelling at the top of his voice and hitting the screen in his seat. It was quite startling for a lot of people.

Arriving in Hong Kong was fast and efficient as it always seems to be, buying the MTR and airport train pass is easy, getting Hong Kong dollars out of an ATM is easy, the train came in 1 minute, it arrives at Kowloon where theres a free shuttle bus to most hotels.
They were very apologetic that it didnt go to my hotel, but I looked on my highly illegal stolen cached google maps and it went to a hotel about 50 metres from mine, so I took that.

My hotel is fine, very modern, despite it being 2am Australian time the first thing I did was check if the free internet works, it does, or else you wouldnt be seeing this.

Bonus Melbourne photo, because I know everyone loves photos of planes as much as me. Heres a Qantas A380 that just arrived, I was checking its engines for oil leaks.

First dinner in economy, some sort of beef thing. It was actually pretty nice.

Second dinner (which comes about an hour before you land), some sort of chicken pie. Also quite nice. You get a Weiss bar for dessert, I like those.

Theres no sign of drama at the baggage claim, everyone waits quietly. In the customs line before this, where you cant take photos, they employ racial profiling.
Theres 4 sections for foreigners, of which I am one, and somebody directs you to one of the 4 areas. As best I can tell they are determining who they are likely to ask many questions to (black people, arabs), and directing them to one specific holding pen, whilst those of us who arent carrying backpack bombs are sent to the other 3 where theres no line.

I think I have taken this exact photo before, its the airport train. I think it has free wifi.

As mentioned, after getting off the train I immediately transferred to this free shuttle bus. I was the only passenger, as soon as I stepped on he drove off.

The outside of my hotel, Butterfly on Pratt Street. The name suits me I guess. So far I only have very positive things to say about it.

The first of no doubt many pictures of neon, this is out the front of my hotel in downtown Kowloon. My street has a mcdonalds, 3 x 711's, and a circle K. Its also right by the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR.

I get a lot of requests to show the inside of hotel rooms. This is probably going to be the nicest hotel on my journey, This is the bed.
One interesting thing, the bathroom has a big clear window, lots of people on Tripadvisor complain about this. You cant quite see the clear window in this photo but it is indeed a strange choice of decor.

The shower is enormous and the pressure nearly pushed me through the glass.

My work station. Where I am sitting typing this.
Something great and unusual, a microwave. Not sure if I will use it but if I see any crazy foods that I need to reheat later, it will come in handy.
TV stations available are not great, discovery channel and fashion tv are the only 2 english ones I can work out. This is concerning as I want to watch the Melbourne grand prix.
Perhaps I will need to find a public place thats showing star sports or whoever has the rights in Hong Kong.

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Day 2 - Saturday, 26 March 2011

Walking around before stuff opens

Despite staying awake as late as possible, and despite there being only a 2.5 hour time difference, I woke up wide awake at approximately 5am Hong Kong time.
The city doesnt really wake up until about 11, so that was quite an issue.
I decided to venture out for a walk around the local area anyway, there were actually lots of people around, just the shops and cafes were still shut.
The only thing open was Starbucks and Mcdonalds, I went to Starbucks for coffee.
It was full of annoying British tourists here for the rugby sevens tournament thats on today and tomorrow, all of them fat and balding, wearing rugby clothes and still drunk from wherever they were last night.
Hopefully they all bugger off to wherever the rugby is being played for the whole day and evening.

Something great is that its about 20C here. Perfect weather for walking about in shorts and t-shirts. Whilst for me and the british hooligans this is perfect weather, for your average Hong Kong resident, this calls for a coat and gloves.

I intended just to wander about for an hour, but that turned into 4 hours! In that time I never went anywhere in particular, thats the best thing about this place.

If you thought what mcdonalds in Australia / UK / USA wherever else you are reading from thats not asia is plasticy, then youve seen nothing. This is the breakfast special, its an egg and saussage thing on multicolored macaroni, with peas in it.

Hong Kong takes advertising to the next level, if theres an empty shop heres what it looks like.

Just in case the regular wonderbread crap is a little bit too nutritious for you, here you can get it with the crusts cut off.
This saves even further on the effort required to chew.
Despite my horror that this exists, I do appreciate the small packs of bread, would be good to get that in Australia as I hate buying an entire loaf of bread just to make 1 sandwhich.

Cream filled colon sounds very appetising.

By some sort of amazing coincidence, my hotel is a few metres from the largest guitar store in Hong Kong. It was still closed when I walked past, but some guitars hanging in the window seemed cheap.
I remember the last time I came here I thought guitars were very expensive.
Perhaps Im not calculating the currency conversion properly.

Alleyways like this are everywhere, sometimes they have shops along them despite being this wide.

Admit it, you would all be dissapointed if I didnt do my signature pose.

This is a store selling clothes for children (I think). Inappropriate name is inappropriate.

Lamma Island

This afternoon I took a ferry to Lamma island, which is Hong Kongs 3rd biggest island, off the southwest coast of the main Hong Kong island.
It takes about 20 minutes to get there on a big modern ferry, which costs the grand sum of $2.

Lamma island is unique in that no cars allowed, its quite bohemian and backwards. Apprently theres quite a few expats living in tents in the jungle there who couldnt cope with business life in Hong Kong and go there to slowly die as failures.
Despite that, its popular for day trips, the walking trails are fantastic, and the beaches are nice.
The beaches are shadowed by a huge power plant as you can see in the photos, theres also a wind farm near the other beach which I didnt get to.

The popular route, which I took, is to get off the ferry at one end of the island, in a village called Yung Shue Wan, then walk for what the sign says will take 90 minutes but took me 50 even though I was stopping to take photos to the other village at Sok Kwu Wan.

I had a great time, the weather was perfect for this kind of thing.

Heres my ferry, its a good thing I lined up 10 minutes early as they had to turn people away. Its a bit of a shame theres no outdoor part for you to sit and look and take photos, as the amount of oil tankers, container ships, junks etc. is bewildering.
Many of them are just anchored in groups out in the sea, possibly for years by the looks of it.

Arriving at Yung Shue Wan.
Lots of people commute on the ferry each day, and since theres no cars allowed on the island, theres over 9000 bicycles chained up near the ferry terminal.

I believe this is the russian girls rugby 7's team. They have come to an island where the only activity is to go hiking, with all their baggage, 2 and 3 big bags each.
I have no idea what they plan to do now.

The main street in the village of Yung Shue Wan, its mainly seafood restaurants, but some silly souvenier type shops as well.

Heres one of the beaches, this one has a fetching view of a gigantic power plant.

After walking over and around the mountain you get to this view of the floating village of Sok Kwu Wan, its fairly impressive looking, different to anything I have seen before.

This cave is full of wizards, ghosts and snakes.

Heres a half assed attempt at a temple. It looks cheap and nasty.

The seafood restaurants all have the produce in these tanks. Some strange looking stuff in there.

The floating village.

When last I was here, they were just starting this project which is I think to move the ferry terminals into a shopping centre style complex. It seems to be slow going by asian construction standards.

Mong Kok

I have been to Mong Kok many times before, but on a Saturday night its the place to go if you want to see lots of people.
Theres distinct areas, gold fish trapped in plastic balloons and kittens that look too cute to be real in pet street, realistic 'replica' machine guns and radio controlled everything in hobby street, every kind of electronics good imaginable in nerd street etc.
I also had to find dinner, and was determined to find a place to sit down and eat rather than having octopus balls on a stick like most other people.
Of course if you cram 3 million people into the space of a few streets, all looking for somewhere to sit down and eat, the chance of them wanting to seat 1 guy at tables made to take 10 people is slim.

So I wandered a bit further, and some Phillipino girls (I think they were girls anyway) were very determined to tell me how they were my friend. Its easy to make friends in Hong Kong! Earlier in the day a very friendly Indian man followed me for 2 streets explaining how he could find me the best tailor in the world at the best price, and that he was telling me only because he didnt want me to miss out as he could see I was a wealthy business man who clearly needs a suit.

Eventually I got far enough away from the action to find restaurants with spare seats, sort of.

Voltron / Power Rangers were busy collecting money for I have no idea what. Chinese only characters on their box prevented a donation from me. For all I know they were collecting money to excute Falun Gong, improve the harvesting of bear bile and tiger penises and to import a few more Cambodian sex slaves to drive down prices.

This is the ladies market. Theres really not much there you would want, even if you are a Lady. I think people are coming to this realisation generally as its the quietest part of Mong Kok despite having the highest density of stuff for sale.

Heres where I had my dinner. They showed me to a table, then showed a group of 3 other people to my table after me. Didnt bother me, but they really did not seem to like this, and argued a lot with the waitress.
I wish I could understand what they were saying.
'You sit us at our own table, we wont eat with this guy. He has ridiculous pony tail. Hes wearing shorts and a t-shirt, hes crazy, its freezing outside'.
Shortly after my meal arrived, another table became available and they promptly moved.

And heres what I ate. Boneless Hainan chicken with Taro Milk tea.
The chicken was ok, pretty fatty tasting. The rice was really good though, had been cooked in some very flavourful stock, probably made from ox intestines and blood worms or something.
My drink wasnt on the list of acceptable drinks as part of the free drink with meal deal, so it cost me about 40 cents extra. The waitress went to great lengths to explain this to me.
So the grand total of my meal was $4.50 in Australian dollars.

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Day 3 - Sunday, 27 March 2011

West Kowloon

This morning I again woke early and went for quite a long walk around the area of West Kowloon.
this is a relatively new area, on reclaimed land, and its where the big building I photographed yesterday is situated.
On the way there I went past the mainland ferry terminial, which also has many ferries to Macau, I will probably use this tomorrow.

Not much more to say, right now I am struggling to find out where to watch Formula 1 in Hong Kong. The only places the internet seems to suggest are the hostess bars / brothels in Wan Chai where you pay a fortune for drinks for sex slaves to sit with you and tell you how handsome you are even though you are 55 years old, obese and british.
I will not be going there.

Heres the view to the right from the avenue of the stars. I have messed with the settings on this photo so you can see buildings through the pollution.
Pollution is by far and away the biggest problem in Hong Kong.

And heres the view to the left.

And heres me, enjoying the view. A cleaning lady was concerned I was putting my camera on a rubbish bin.

Theres always a lot of passenger ships tied up, 4 of them today just in this area, some park around other bits of the island as well.

I decided to have breakfast at cafe de coral inside the mainland passenger ferry, along with all the mainlanders being deported.
Cafe de coral is a chain which I presume is Hong Kong owned, they are everywhere. They have a full range of breakfasts including congee, American style (chicken with maple syrup) and regular eggs and stuff.
I opted for regular, I think, the person you pay didnt understand English and yelled at me then the sign, I shrugged.

Heres what I got, for about $2.
It wasnt great, but for $2 what do you expect.
It does occur to me that I could probably go up to $5 for breakfast some place nicer, but where would the fun be in that?
The eggs were ok, the saussage was unusual and the sauce on it was to mainly hide the taste. The coffee however I couldnt drink, it tasted like dishwashing detergent.

Heres a large unusually shaped apartment building in West Kowloon. Nearby they are building a new rail terminus that will be a very fast train to Shenzhen and then Guangzhou.
I intend to use this one day.

Like everywhere, under the new buildings theres a huge shopping mall, which also incoporates the 'in town airport check in' and high speed rail to the airport.
This one has an ice skating rink.

From the roof of the shopping centre, heres the highest building in Hong Kong.
Its actaully the ritz carlton hotel, but only the top 20 floors are the hotel.
Theres going to be a public viewing platform on the 118th floor but its not open yet. They have catered for the fact the pollution will mean there is no view by providing fake telescopes that track where you are moving them and show a hi res digitally enhanced photo taken on a clear day instead.
Welcome to the digitally augmented future.

Thousands of very angry bees.

I bought my lunch from a supermarket. Despite being the fancy imported goods supermarket, I think all this cost me $6.

Central, briefly

This evening I decided to head on the subway over to Hong Kong isaland, to Central.
Once I got there, I had a bit of a walk around, this is the area popular with tourists frightened of chinese food.
Its full of places like outback steakhouse, woolomooloo steakhouse, fish and chippery, gourmet burger king, pizza express etc.
I was quite bored here, I had no desire to look in H&M or Marks & Spencer, I have seen enough of those whilst in London, so I wandered back to the waterfront and caught the star ferry back to Kowloon.

If you are staying in Hong Kong, I think I definitely have to recommend staying on the Kowloon side rather than the Hong Kong island side. I guess it only makes about 3 minutes difference because the subways are so frequent, but you do tend to wander the streets around your hotel a lot (or I do anyway), and the Kowloon side is a lot more interesting to me, that sure was a long sentence, I better end it now.

On the way back to the star ferry terminal, I went through this low class shopping mall. I was confused as it was full of women, all I presume Phillipino.
Turns out this mall is full of remittance agents, for all the live in maids to send all their below minimum wage earnings back to their home countries to feed their families.
Despite that, one thing that stood out was how happy these women all were, singing, laughing, smiling, hugging each other etc.

Sitting just outside this mall, they all set up little cardboard cities, where they seem to play games and eat. I dont know if they stay there overnight, some of them had quite a bit of stuff there with them. Maybe this is the area where those looking for a new owner sit?

I love the star ferry, it amazes me that it costs only 30 cents to ride across the Harbour.
To ride across Sydney harbour, which is about half as wide, costs at least $5.

Yes, another photo of this building, and the tethered DHL hot air balloon, I predict that will be the last photo I take of it this trip.

By sheer coincidence, I found myself in the same foodcourt as my last visit. Last time I had pepper lunch.

This time, I wanted dumplings.
That fellow in front of me is American, and probably about 60. he was there with his boyfriend, and they were quite funny, asking a lot of questions of the girl serving them like 'is this meal suitable for a couple of cute old sea dogs like us?'

Here it is, boiled mystery dumplings (they were very nice), with hot and sour soup (a soup thickened with egg whites) and steamed greens.
It was very nice, and I dont have to tell you, cheap.

Tonight I decided a dessert was required, so I headed over to sweetscoop.
Most of their desserts are of Malaysian origin, at least I think they are, since the main ingredient is shaved ice.
The ice shaving machine was very industrial and dangerous looking.

Update: I have remembered the name of this, its not Ice Kacing, although it is very similar, the green worms make it something called Cendol.

And heres my dessert.

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Day 1 - Friday, 25 March 2011
  Adelaide to Melbourne
  Melbourne Airport
  Welcome to Hong Kong
Day 2 - Saturday, 26 March 2011
  Walking around before stuff opens
  Lamma Island
  Mong Kok
Day 3 - Sunday, 27 March 2011
  West Kowloon
  Central, briefly
Day 4 - Monday, 28 March 2011
  Taking it easy
Day 5 - Tuesday, 29 March 2011
  My favourite place in the world
  I missed a flight, sort of!
  Taiwan, eventually I got here
Day 6 - Wednesday, 30 March 2011
  Taipei 101
Day 7 - Thursday, 31 March 2011
  The flower fair and Danshui
  Taiwanese people hate fancy shops
Day 8 - Friday, 1 April 2011
  Zoos, Gondolas and Lingerie
  Shilin Night Market
Day 9 - Saturday, 2 April 2011
  Bullet train to Kaohsiung
  Out and about in Kaohsiung
  Yep, more night markets
Day 10 - Sunday, 3 April 2011
Day 11 - Monday, 4 April 2011
  I ate at mcdonalds
  The hotel and the airport
Day 12 - Tuesday, 5 April 2011
  Transiting Hong Kong
  Singapore is hot
Day 13 - Wednesday, 6 April 2011
  Mostly closed until late afternoon
  Little India
Day 13 - Thursday, 7 April 2011
  The zoo is mostly, closed
  Went out to dinner
Day 15 - Friday, 8 April 2011
  Din tai fung
Day 16 - Saturday, 9 April 2011
  The big storm
Day 17 - Sunday, 10 April 2011
  The longest day
Day 18 - Monday, 11 April 2011
  Home again, briefly