There are a number of phrases I tend to (over)use. One of them is ?That?s nothing to write home about.?
One of the things I?ve learned on this trip is that the most mundane things can be the most interesting. Indeed, they’re the ones I most often write to you about.
This morning, for example, I struck out in search of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Instead, I got lost and found myself in a shopping mall. ?Are you surprised? I wasn’t. I saw names I’d heard before like “Coach, Tiffany, Armani,? and Versace.” Now I know what they sell. What was most impressive were the lines of people outside of each of these stores. They looked less like retail shops and more like nightclubs. Most even had bouncers.
The best part of the malls, in my opinion, is not the shopping. It’s ready access to clean bathrooms. This is hard to come by in most places. There’s also free entertainment in the form of muzak. As I walked by a Sunglass Hut on my way to the bathroom, I suddenly found myself trotting to jingle bells played by a xylophone orchestra. Ordinarily, this would not be strange in December. However, don’t forget I’m in a predominantly Buddhist city.
After visiting the bathroom, I struggled to find my way out of the shopping mall (like a Las Vegas Casino, it’s tough to break out). Rather than go to the Cultural Center, I headed to nearby Stanley for lunch. Stanley is a small village on the south side of Hong Kong Island. There are a number of restaurants along the waterfront; however, one in particular really caught my eye.
The proprietor of Seaside Restaurant” stood outside practically begging anyone to come in. You might think that’s a bad sign. I took it as an opportunity to learn more about effective selling in Southeast Asia.
?We have everything!? he happily said to each passerby.
I consented to see whether it was true. I delight in telling you that it was! You don’t often see a menu with fried rice, spaghetti, lobster, fish and chips, and a rib eye.
The local guy next to me ordered an “American Hamburger” and took a picture of it. I ordered Dim Sum and ate it.
The best part of my meal, though, was that I had a great view of the sales effort going on at Seaside Restaurant.
An American walked by for example and — just like me — heard, “We have everything!” With judgment and condescension in his voice, the American said, “I doubt you have everything,” Stretching the word “everything” as far as possible.
The proprietor – in kind of a sad way – listed everything on the menu. The American tried to trick him with some made-up dishes. I felt bad and left a bigger tip.
I asked him why he keeps talking to people. “Because eventually, some will come in. Like you! How was your food”
“It was good.”
After lunch (and a struggle to find a bathroom – where’s a mall when you need one?) I took the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbor to Kowloon. According to National Geographic, “Crossing Victoria Harbour with Star Ferry is one of the fifty places of a lifetime.”
According to me, it’s something that happened.
After the Ferry ride, I visited the ICC Building, which is the tallest in Hong Kong. I had a drink on the 118th floor at the highest bar in the world. Can’t beat that with a stick. Even with the fog.
Then, I went to dinner at the Peninsula Hotel. I learned earlier today that the British surrendered Hong Kong to the Japanese in room 336 of the hotel on December 25,, 1941 (it’s known as Brat Christmas). The British got it back when Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945. And the Chinese received it (again) in July of 1997. It’s hot property if you ask me.