Witchboy Goes to Honk Kong
Day One -- Travel Day
I changed planes so many times getting here that I started to lose track of the cities:
Austin to Denver to Seattle to Tokyo to Hong Kong. By the end of the day, I
felt like I had been beaten. Both of my travel bags seemed to have the mass
of collapsed stars. For the 10-hour flight (Seattle to Tokyo), I rode next to
an interesting woman named Page, from a small village in Alaska. She is some
sort of caseworker for the mentally ill. Apparently, Alaska drives a lot of
people mad. I regretted not having time to kill in Tokyo -- I would have liked
even the chance to gone out to eat or something.
Despite the ever-present airport security, I was not searched once during the trip from
Austin to Hong Kong. No one even wanted to inspect my bags. Others around me
were taken aside and questioned, scanned with handheld devices. I saw unhappy
travelers removing their shoes or trying to stuff their undergarments back down
into their luggage. What a drag.
When I finally arrived in Hong Kong, it took forever to get through customs. Afterward, I found
the kiosk for the Express Tourist Octopus pass and bought one. I also converted
some US cash into HK currency. Aching horribly and feeling exceedingly grimy,
I made my way to the train and started the ride to HK Station (the stop that
was closest to my hotel). The only time I have ever felt worse after traveling
was on the C-130 flight from Florida to Saudi Arabia, sitting in cargo netting
the entire way.
Looking outside the train windows, I could see parts of the city
all around. There is something about the quality of light in HK that is different...everything
takes on an dusky glimmer. It might be the humidity. Many buildings are constructed
of both weather-washed concrete and glossy mirrors, a combination of industrial
and slick. The city exists on levels -- almost everywhere you look, there are
curving, multi-decked expressways, elevated walkways or terraced pedestrian
paths. At times I felt like the train was under water, moving through canyons
of black glass and shimmering signs. Colored lights were everywhere. Huge signs
loomed overhead, their radiosity bathing the surrounding surfaces in orange,
gold or blue.
At HK Station, I was picked up by one cab in a fleet of small,
red taxis. After another scenic ride, it dropped me at
the Renaissance Harbor View hotel, in the Wan Chai
district (home of Maggie Chow in DX1). A jazz band was playing in the lobby.
Most of the guests were dressed elegantly, some in tuxes even. As a member of
the gamer subculture, I did my part to wreck the dress code curve as I passed
through to check-in.
My hotel room was small, but cozy...all reddish wood and mirrors. The view was staggering.
Monolithic buildings reflected darkly just across a courtyard and huge signs
saying PHILIPS and SAMSUNG bathed the room in red. The Samsung sign slowly faded
from English to kanji.
My room was on the 25th floor, but there was nearly as
much to see above me as below.
In the distance, I could see water. Beyond that,
more towers. Beyond that, the black backdrop of the mountain.
I showered and unpacked. Something awoke me around 3AM. Fog had moved in, obscuring everything
but the closest buildings. Another hour later and the window to my room was
nothing but gray mist, even making an effort to obscure the huge light-signs
beyond. An hour after that there were no traces of fog at all -- the air was clear.
Next: Day Two...