Toto We’re not in China Anymore
December 10, 2009


It all started with opium.
See, the British were mad caking on the opium trade to Canton. Until things got out of hand and the Chinese government banned more from coming in. Society can’t function when a bunch of people are chilling in opium dens getting high all day.
So, with the drug trade stymied, the British decided to create some ruckus and after the First Opium War, Hong Kong became a colony of the mighty British Empire. Things have never been the same ever since, for better I argue. And although China got back their prized jewel of a trade port, I’m glad it remains pretty much as it was: youthful, vibrant, and independent. Being under Chinese control isn’t always easy, so big ups to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to the People’s Republic of China (its government name haha).
From Yiwu I took another unsanitary Chinese train down to Gaungzhou. A giant Chinese train hub, Gaungzhou is about an hour and a half train ride to Hong Kong. The trains can be paid for either by Chinese reminbi or Hong Kong dollars. There trains leave every two hours, so I paid for a ticket and sat in the waiting area. Somethings already different. The waiting room actually has seats for everyone. There’s nobody on the ground, no pushing, shoving, or fighting for survival.
I get on the train. More shockers.
How come nobody is pushing and squeezing to get on? Did someone just graciously let me onboard before them? Where’s all the trash on the cabin floor? I thought Hong Kong was a part of China. I was expecting sounds of instant noodles slurping, old men coughing and spitting on the floor, and chicken feet bones flying like a javelin throw. Strange.
Subway notices are written in english and I can understand them! And they’re not just in Chinglish, they’re highly understandable and coherent. And also a little classy, which the British frequently offer (except when they’re in the form of drunk backpackers away from home). By the way while we’re on the subject of language, they speak Cantonese here, which made all the mandarin I picked up the last month basically useless.

After looking for a couple places to stay I found a room near the Causeway Bay MTR station. It’s on the island-side of Hong Kong, where you want to be. Do yourself a favor and never stay in Kowloon. Unless you’re a fan of the ghetto and being solicited drugs and pirated cell phones. Even HKers are afraid to go there, I know I asked.
So after getting settled in, I met a couple of dudes from the east coast of the US and we did what Americans usually do to experience another culture: go get a drink. Wan Chai was the destination and was walkable from Causeway Bay. Could have taken the MTR one stop and saved the walk, but taking the metro one stop down is pretty lazy. I AM THAT LAZY FOLKS.
Anyway, Lan Kwai Fong is an area with so many bars even your boy neezy couldn’t canvass the area in one night. There’s always something going on every night in LKF. Wan Chai, though, is the poor man’s Lan Kwai Fong. In addition to bars, the area has rows of strip clubs ready to trap unsuspecting (or suspecting) foreigners. After a few drinks we became suspecting and dove into one.
Yes, I went to a HK strip club. And yes it was a disappointment. Chicks aren’t allowed to be topless or bottomless (I guess one would preclude the other). So what was on stage was ladies in their underwear shimmying to “I’m N Luv (Wit a Stripper)” – but nobodys stripping. I seen more at a college house party.
Anyway, upon getting to the vicinity of the entrance we were whisked in by girls who clearly has had a slow night. The three of us (me and the other two Americans) get in, sit down, and buy ourselves a cold one. Chicks flock from the other side of the room and jump on the guys laps, standard protocol. I turn to the madame of the establishment and yell out “mamasita, where’s my girl?!”. Are you serious HK strip clubs? I’m not white, but I got more paper then these two dudes combined. Someday, I’m gonna write a book about being an asian american man traveling through southeast asia and how it’s COMPLETELY DIFFERENT when you have white skin. But that’s another story. Anyway, a short blond-haired bomber is on my lap, flirting as her job description requires. It’s getting good until I tell her where I’ve been traveling, cuz your boy gets around in the world. So she then finds it in her liberty to dish on what she thinks of foreigners. What she really thinks of especially foreigners. The dudes come in drunk and act belligerent and disrespectful and look down on her. And basically treat her inhumanely. She was definitely on some “I’m a victim” tip. So at this point I think two things. First, you’re working in a whorehouse babe. Secondly, I’m sure you’re not telling your white customers these Lifetime Television for Women stories, so why are you being a killjoy to my strip club experience. I’m here to be drunk and appreciate the beauty of scantily clad women, not to hear your tragic sob story of how you have become another casualty in the southeast asian sex trade. Strike two.
Just as I manage to wrangle the conversation back to something a bit more jovial, head mamasita comes over and asks me (and only me not the two other guys) if I wanna buy the lady a drink. Are you serious? Strike three. I’m out this joint.
That’s Wan Chai for you.
Anyway, I take it to the club where dimes are everywhere and the environment is a little friendlier and drink and act belligerent some more until about 4A, where I took a cab back to Causeway Bay.
However bad Wan Chai was, Lan Kwai Fong made up for it and then some. That night I party-hopped around the city and ended up at the well known club DragonEye. The club is mos def a fire hazard. It’s crazy packed. Actually more like organized chaos. If you need to get somewhere in the club, you’ll get there, just three times longer than you expected. Finished up the night with some great late night food at Sweet Dynasty.
I’m getting into the rotation where I party hard at night, and then get my ass out of bed early so that I can hazily experience tourist attractions during the daytime. This time I zombied through Victoria Peak, a place tourists go to look down over Hong Kong island and Kowloon side. From what I can remember, it gave a great view of the city skyscrapers stacked so close to each other. The hike downwards was mint as well. I did The Peak, Chungking Mansion in Kowloon, Star Ferry, and Ladies Market in short order. You can find out about those in the pages of your Lonely Planet.
And I did it all thanks to the HK MTR. Big ups to the HK government. Free public wifi and a great metro system. You really know how to win me over. You readers may have already known my love for good public transportation. Hong Kong’s MTR is top notch and was a joy to use to get everywhere from Kowloon mainland side to the island side. Crossing the bride to get to either side usually involves a cab and bridge fees. Avoid those and bridge traffic by taking the MTR.
Lastly, Marco Polo Hotel provided a rare treat for HKers. The German Beer Fest at Marco Polo Hotel was surprisingly pretty heat. It was surreal to be at a German beerfest in the middle of southeast asia. In any case, it was good fun, good music, and good people. Albeit a little out of place. Just go with it. It’s an annual thing, which has gotten bigger every year.
It starts with opium, and it ends with opium. I was offered some fun pills which I initially put in my pocket, but got rid of them before I left. I tossed the pills into the trash and gear up to get to the airport. I don’t need to have to explain myself to the Thai Police Narcotics Agent. Plus, don’t do drugs kids.
In conclusion, HK is awesome and there’s always something going on here just like Manhattan. It has a skyline like Hawaii. Hawaihattan. It’s a clean place, which is unusual for southeast asia. Hong Kong is a little gem and is one of my favorite places on earth. I oddly feel at home here, which is something I haven’t felt in awhile. I feel as if there are nooks and crannies that are hidden treasures that I unfortunately didn’t have time to explore and unearth. I left way early because I found insanely cheap tickets to Thailand. So, to HK I won’t say goodbye, but see you later!