Egg tarts, or not (day 50)

The great virtue of having cheap (in fact, free to me) internet access is that I can write my diary a lot. At least, I think it is a great virtue. You may or may not agree. I am still not sure whether this is for you or for me. I suspect both. But your opinions on what you want to see don’t really feature. Just sit back and relax.

So I climbed to the top of Victoria Peak today. That is one of the things that one just has to do in Hong Kong. So they tell me.

My climb was aided by a cable car that happened to be going in the same direction, and made worthwhile by some spectacular views of the city. And this cool thing where you could get your hands sculpted from wax. Cool. But not cool enough for me to think that I could actually fit it in my backpack.

Although I might have been able to use it as a candle when camping. For I discovered that Hong Kong is not just a big Chinese city filled with reasonably priced electronic goods (about which more below). In fact, there are a number of excellent beaches and places you can go and tramp (hike or trek for your North Americans) and camp.

You can also buy pirate DVDs in Hong Kong. In fact, you can buy them all over the place in Asia, it seems. And, this is the interesting bit, everywhere you go the system is slightly different (which is presumably closely related to the level of scrutiny of the activities of the merchants). In Singapore they are hard to find. In Kuala Lumpur they are openly for sale on tables in Chinatown. In Bangkok you look at folders of movie liners, pick the ones you want, and wait in a bar till the proprietor brings you your heart’s desire.

But in Hong Kong, well, there is a story in that.

My egg-tart addicted shopping buddy and I (I tried the object of his addiction – nice, but not as nice as, say, a nice cup of char) set off to a likely mall one afternoon in quest of a cheap movie or two. A false start or two, and we eventually find ourselves immersed in a typically Asian mall (lots of tiny shops, packed to the gunnels with the same electronics stuff, staffed by the proprietor and no price is fixed).

After a couple of floors of that we take ourselves up an empty staircase, stepping over a few likely youths with cellphones (like everyone) along the way.

We find ourselves on a floor of the mall partitioned into shops, but with just newspaper plastered over all the windows. Another few young men are squatting on the floor. One looks up. ‘You want DVD?’, he asks.

In response to my buying buddy’s bob of the head, our man pulls out some keys and unlocks a door, which is also covered with paper. Inside we go. The door is locked. A tiny room. Wallpaper: an uninspiring and long-forgotten section of the South China Morning Post. Contents: many rows of DVDs. Take your pick.

When we want to leave again (after haggling about prices with the youth who speaks just enough English to make you think that he is pretending not to speak English – just like I am pretending not to speak Cantonese, of course), our man calls the guys outside the door. Once they confirm that there are no cops outside waiting to clap us in irons, we depart. Down the hall. Down the stairs. Over the likely lads and into the tropical rain.

I watched an (ice) hockey game yesterday. One of my hosts is a mad keen hockey player. Seems funny in the tropics, but I guess you get that with ex-pats. Insanity, that is.

It makes me think about things (rather than people) that I miss from home (since he obviously misses hockey). Eggs benedict and coffee at the Globe, mooching over the paper, second-hand bookstores, snowboarding (the season will be starting soon downunder), schtick (don’t ask), red wine, warm fires, cold weather, wool jerseys. Signs that I can understand would be handy too.

You know what? I will be in China proper tomorrow. How crazy is that?