Hong Kong Crazy

Neither of us can remember why we booked to stay in Hong Kong for 4 days – I think it was somewhere we had to fly into in order to get from Hanoi to New Zealand and I thought it might be nice to see the place but in retrospect 2 or 3 days would have been enough.

It’s not that we haven’t enjoyed it – it’s an amazing place – but it’s quite expensive and there’s not so much to do here that you couldn’t fit into a couple of days.

Hong Kong has the 7th highest GDP per capita in the world and oh how it shows! Literally everywhere you go has shops. Shopping centres, shops, malls, more shops, markets and more shops. Most of them are big brand shops like Armani and Versace and each has several branches. There’s Tiffany’s, Vivienne Westwood, DKNY – you get the idea. It’s all designed to hoover up the bucket loads of money that oozes from the pockets of the bankers and stockbrokers that swarm around the place, pouring into and out of the vast skyscrapers of companies like The Bank Of China, HSBC and various other multi-nationals. The point is, this place is not really designed for backpackers on a budget – even middle class, middle aged (ish) backpackers like us! Not that that has stopped a certain Trini lady friend of mine from shopping! Oh no! We’ve trundled around enough shops to make my feet hurt quite a lot but, due to the high prices and the fact that we can’t carry much more weight than we already have, only a few things have actually been purchased.

In actual fact, Happy Valley races was the place that received the bulk of our cash after a drunken and (for me, at least) fruitless night at the most stunning setting for a sports venue I’ve ever seen! The old Victorian trams – one of the few old things left around here – take you to the racecourse which is right in the heart of the insanely overcrowded city. The race meetings are held at night and the view all around is of huge tower blocks of apartments, squeezed in between the office blocks.

We arrived with 15 minutes to go before the first of the 8 races and, with me having written down some tips for races 2 to 6 from a local TV programme the night before, we decided not to bet on race 1 but Annika, having seen a jockey wearing turquoise in the parade ring beforehand, chose number 9 just so we had an interest. It won. At 9/1. Apart from one other small winner – the favourite in race 4 – we failed to win any money whatsoever and only managed to achieve the same as all the other ex-pats who were there – a large consumption of alcohol. As a result, the night was top class fun but we have both suffered bad hangovers today.

Another feature of Hong Kong has been the food. Due to the big money and the number of foreigners here, there is every kind of food you can imagine but it’s all quite expensive – around London prices. But our budget can’t cope with that and, to be honest, we’d rather try the local stuff so we’ve been eating in the Chinese places. They don’t really offer what you might call proper restaurants here – just very brightly lit cafe/diner type places with TVs blaring and air conditioning turned up to 11. We have had a mixture of good and bad with roast duck and beef stir fry being some of the best and tonight’s ‘pork with ginger and green onion’ being the low light – it was mainly offal, those springy, tubey bits of a pig you really don’t want to eat. Our dim sum was quite good but we have absolutely no idea what was in it as the owner didn’t speak any English. All I can tell you was that it was a small meat thing and some buns with ‘stuff’ in them – one meaty stuff and one sweet, beany stuff.

We are now looking forward to New Zealand and spending 3 weeks driving around in our camper van accompanied by Damon and Adele, friends from home, who are currently in the air between London and NZ. It’ll be nice to get away from the crowded streets and chaos of Hong Kong and see some nice quiet countryside – but more than that, we’re really looking forward to spending some time with friends which we haven’t done in ages.