Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hong Kong

I went to Hong Kong. It's a long story, but some I have some older, wealthy friends in Japan who took me. The likely answer to any questions you might have are either "No" or "Shut the fuck up, I can't believe you'd ask me something like that". So yeah, I went to Hong Kong.

It was a crazy rushed Japanese style tour.

Arrived at the hotel, checked in, and took a walk. I'm proud to say that my first conversation with a resident of Hong Kong was with the prostitutes in the park just outside. Sweet girl, but she did the whole grab your arm and then violently push it away when you are clearly not buying thing. They totally do that in Japan too. If you can't sell something in 2 minutes, do you yell at the customer?

I woke up at 8, and began my tour. Not just any tour, but a Japanese tour. I'd heard that Japanese people love to be led around, told what to do, and taken to places that cater to Japanese taste on their organized tours abroad. I don't think I'm being an insensitive jerk because I've heard this from Japanese people, foreigners, and people who actually work as tour guides. Am I in the wrong here? I was about to find out if this was true. I'll save you the suspense. It's totally true. Japanese tours are whack!

The first stop after a traditional Hong Kong breakfast or rice porridge, fried noodles, and dim sum was Victoria Peak. You take a tram up to one of the best cityscapes in the world. It's breathtaking. I could spend a few hours up there easily.

But, being a Japanese tour, we took a photo and left after literally 1 minute.

The tour bus drove for 30 minutes to Stanley Market where were given an hour to shop. "Given an hour to shop" will be a recurring theme.

The next stop was this fly beach with some crazy temple. Seriously, this shrine was filled with mosaic statues of all sorts of animals and deities. All at the water's edge. 1 minute for a photo, then back to the bus.

At about forever on the bus o'clock, we got to the jade "factory". Followed by the silk "factory". These are just warehouses that cater to tourists who want to buy traditional things. They also excel at getting people who don't want to buy shit to buy some shit. Actually, I kind of want a silk suit.

On to another temple. This one was really intriquit and I could easily take a couple hours to wander around. Sorry, 1 minute to take a photo and have our fortunes told by a fortune teller with an internet connection. They type in your stats and hit the print button. I know that all this palm reading and astrology is all math and logic, but I don't want to hear it unless it's from the mouth of some ancient guy who knows nothing but where the stars were on my birthday 30 years ago.

Oh snap, this dude totally has on a Dexter's Lab backpack. He's like 40 years old. That's kind of awesome.

Another hour of shopping, this time at the duty free shop. They don't sell fake stuff at the duty free, so what's the point. This is Hong Kong dammit! I want some phoney Luis Vuitton gear.

After the tour I walked around by myself for a bit. Hella shady dudes kept coming up to me trying to sell their stuff. Like every block some new guy is talking in a low voice trying to get me hooked on his product.

In the States, if some dude comes out of an alley to slang something, I'm expecting drugs. In Japan, it's gonna be blow jobs from an Asian girl who is pretending that she is a native Japanese girl. But in Hong Kong... it's a tailor. A damn tailor pimp. These guys are everywhere. And their as pushy as the whores in the park at night. Some dude tried to physically force me into his shop to take my measurements.

There's an Avenue of the Stars with a sick statue of Bruce Lee. I caught the morning sun as it glistened through his fingers.

The Hong Kong Avenue of the Stars is only for Chinese people. Like Jet Li.

Bruce Lee.

Also fish.

Did you know that Hong Kong is known for french toast and "pantyhose" tea? Well it is. According to the guidebook in my hotel room. It seems like they needed filler space. "Let's see... we have dim sum, egg tarts, fish ball soup, but we still need to fill half a page. What did I have for breakfast?"

Also famous for duck pancakes. Yeah, a fucking dried duck flattened like a pancake.

Check out these weekend warriors! The Hong Kong Harley group was chock full of rich wall street guys decked out in pristine leathers. I'm being bitter because I'm jealous. It was god damn 25 degrees in Hong Kong! Tokyo is like 10. I had to have a finger amputated because it froze off on a motorcycle ride last weekend.

Jumbo is a famous boat slash restaurant. The waitress rolled her eyes at us and got mad when we took too long to order.

Mong Kok is where to go for the fake goods. Hundreds of street side shops selling jewelry, bags, and clothes. I bought some Ed Hardy shirts for myself. Word.

I also found the only alleyway with decent street art in Hong Kong.

Most of Sunday was spent looking for motorcycle gear (I heard stuff is about half price in Hong Kong) only to find that motorcycle shops are closed on Sunday. Whatever.

That night, the tour bus forgot to pick us up at the hotel and we had to take a taxi. The end.

Meanwhile... back in Japan.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hong Kong is Hella Crunk

You heard me... CRUNK!

Many people think of China and they think of pollution, cramped living in run down buildings, and dilapidated old harbors. Even though Hong Kong is separate from mainland China, this holds fairly true. Look down at your feet and you see cockroaches running between trash piles. Look up, though, and the skyscrapers reek of money.

This is common enough around the world, a huge gap in the dichotomy of rich and poor. But the air here.. the feeling was that money is so much more important than other things. Sure, the average guy wakes up and does Tai Chi in the park each morning, but as soon as he's finished, it's time to get that cash.

So what will you do when you acquire your wealth? Go crunk! Let 'em know you're flossin'. Fuck saving for the future, you gotta put that Rolex on your wrist. Yeah, you can buy a fake one that looks real just a block away, but that ain't crunk! Riding the taxi, or worse yet... the bus? No way, better be in that new SL. They might as well just stop selling all other makers, cause Mercedes is the only acceptable ride to let people know you are sitting on some fat bank. And whatcha drinkin'? Get that local wine out of my face, we're sippin on Cognac. XO fool! No, I don't know how it's different that VSOP, but it costs more, so hook it up. Oh shit, my taste is hella refined. Bling bling! (actually, very little bling... seems like diamonds aren't popular here)

Every billboard in town was for either luxury cars, watches, or expensive liquor. Every block has some store selling watches and another selling that expensive booze. Every street was crowded with people showing off their wealth, or people jealous of others.

Yeah, so I went to Hong Kong last weekend. I'll write a proper report soon. Complete with stories of tailor pimps, fucked up Japanese style tours, the prostitute scene outside my hotel window, and fake Ed Hardy T-shirts.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Takao Isn't Nature

Mt. Takao.

It's touted as beautiful nature about 50 minutes from Shinjuku, which is the world's busiest train station. This is true. It's by far the closest hiking you can get to from the busy city. There are ample other places, maybe 90 minutes instead of 50, but they aren't as famous.

You see, Mt. Takao is famous for hiking to the top of a mountain. In Japan, this means that everyone knows about it. If everyone knows, then in turn it must be good. It's a cyclic relationship that fuels tourism and consumerism amongst the masses. But whatever, I wanted to see the koyo (autumn colors) on Takao. I've been to this mountain all other seasons of the year. 3 down, 1 to go.**

You have several options in your pursuit of famous mountain tops. Option 1 is to take the tram with all the old people. 90% of people take this. I shouldn't be so inconsiderate. It's not just for old people. Families who don't want their children to get exercise and girls in 4 inch heels might want to skip the hiking part. Not that I know what girls in 4 inch heels want. Besides Luis Vuitton. Which they already have.

Option 2 is the paved path. It's a hiking trail... I guess. It also doubles as a road for service vehicles to the shrines and soba noodle shops I guess. Actually, the shrines here are pretty tight the first time you see them.

Option 3 is an actual dirt trail. I've hiked the dirt trail almost every time I've been, so today I took the paved path. There was also a map at the station of places to see nice fall foliage, and it recommended this route. Actually, the colors kinda sucked on the way up. I was like 3 or 4 decent trees. Each with about 30 otaku camera dudes taking shots. It's very steep and I heard people cursing my long legs as I flew past them.

About 2/3 of the way up, it was suddenly like a line at Disneyland. This is when the tram people merge with the hiking people for the remaining couple of kilometers to the top. Don't worry, it's all flat at this point. Holy shit hella people. It was absurd. I went on a damn Wednesday, don't you people have jobs! If you go on a weekend or holiday... BEWARE

Here's the useful advice. Listen up! Once you reach the top... don't stop... the walk. Keep hiking to the next mountain. It's like 30-45 minutes further.

Ok, maybe like 1 hour. But there are some stairs at the beginning that scare away the old folks. I'm serious, I watched as people surveyed the steps, decided that the beauty of mother earth wasn't worth it, and turned back. You'll soon be quietly strolling through pristine Japanese maples and ginkgo trees.

Its not famous, and that's why its good.

I took the long way home, heading on to Lake Sagamiko instead of returning. There's a train station at Sagamiko that takes you straight back to Shinjuku.

Do you have any funny hiking stories?

**FYI, winter kinda sucks, there is snow. Summer has a beer garden. Spring has about a hundred "secret" cherry blossoms that bloom a month after Tokyo if you walk past the peak. Enjoy.