Before we begin, please join me in sending thoughts, prayers and healing to all of Boston and its people. I am proud to have called the Boston area my home for three years during my M.Div. Program, and some of my closest friends are there. Heartfelt condolences to those who have lost loved-ones, and had those close to them injured in this dastardly and cowardly act. Thank you to the First Responders and all who worked to save as many as possible, and to the law enforcement agencies who are tracking down the perpetrator(s).
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
I have been to the world of Bladerunner, or at least to what will become that world. Philip K. Dick’s prophetic story “Do Androids Dream…” and its film version are eerily replicated in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong experience is one of the most interesting, and overwhelming, experiences of my life. I will begin talking about it here, and continue as time permits over the coming days. It is too much to compress into one post, and I am still digesting much of it. I’ll also throw in gastronomic details and ship-life anecdotes from the cruise.
Those who know me well know that I have been honored to have been many places, and enjoyed a varied and rather interesting life. It is not easy to impress me, and HK did this in spades. I am an urbanite, and I am blown-away by Hong Kong.
Briefly, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) includes Hong Kong Island, Lantau Island, many smaller islands, as well as Kowloon and the New Territories on the mainland. As we awoke the morning of our porting in the city, we looked out the stateroom window to see the most amazing skyline of Hong Kong Island. New York is the only analogy I can think of, and this is more densely populated.
The ship ported in Kowloon, and we stayed at the Panorama Hotel in the awesomely cosmopolitan neighborhood of Tsim Sha Tsui, in south central Kowloon. It is in the middle of everything, and easily accessible to the rest of the city by taxi and the superb transit system.
As we disembarked, customs were fairly easy, and we then collected our bags and queued up for a taxi, with about 400 other passengers in front of us, and about 1000 passengers behind us. Taxis came, sometimes slowly, and after about an hour, we grabbed one to go to our nearby hotel, a very modern high-rise right on streets filled with little shops, clubs, bars, restaurants, you name it. That is the Bladerunner effect: ultra modern cheek-by-jowl with small, traditional places.
After a brief rest, we began to explore our neighborhood with its delectable sights, smells and sounds. One of the ubiquitous places was McDonald’s, with two locations within a few winding blocks of one another. But this is McDonald’s with a local twist, including McCurry Burgers (very good!) and a Wasabi Fish Sandwich. (Later, at the Burger King on Victoria Peak, we substituted a Heineken for soda for only HK$25 extra (about $3.00). Those were the only two fast food stops, but they were local-oriented, and filled with local people.
As night came on, the Bladerunner effect only increased. We spent our first evening in Kowloon, walking up Nathan Road, one of the most impressive shopping streets in the area. Huge high-rises are punctuated by high-end western shops, like 5th Avenue in NYC and Rodeo Drive in Bev Hills. Everything was brightly lit, and modern. Along the way, we walked past the Jamia Masjid Islamic Centre, and St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, the first in Kowloon.
A quick sidebar on religion in HKSAR: the majority of the population are not religious, and not because they are under the PRC, they just are. The majority of believers are Christian, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, and one Eastern Orthodox church (St. Luke’s Cathedral). Following this are sizable Buddhist and Taoist populations, with some Muslims and Hindus. (In Vietnam, we learned that there is a new Vietnamese religion–they worship Whales!)
We ended up a a club that had been recommended to us and enjoyed an excellent Bloody Mary, which this place called an Oxtail cocktail. Has anyone every heard of this? I know that back when the Clamato folks made Beefmato juice, there was a Beefy Mary, but I have never heard of Oxtail. (You could recreate a Beefy Mary with Clamato and some of that wonderful “Better than Bouillon” concentrated soup mix.)
After visiting a couple more local hangouts (Hair of the Dog and Old China Hand–a British pub), we had an outstanding meal at a Chinese-Japanese fusion restaurant in the neighborhood, where the highlight of the meal was another version of Hundred Year Old Egg. I am now a firm fan of this delicacy, and will be on the lookout for it here in SF.
To conclude this first installment on HKSAR, let me mention that although HK is capitalist, it is part of the Communist nation of the People’s Republic of China, making this my fourth Communist country, after (the then) Czechoslovakia and East Germany/East Berlin, Vietnam and now PRC. (I am not including three other unofficial Communist locations with which I am very familiar, and have visited often: The Peoples’ Republic of Berkeley, The Peoples’ Republic of Davis, and The Peoples’ Republic of Santa Monica! LOL!)
Thank you for reading, and more to come!