Friday, February 22, 2008

People to Do, Things to Be, PLaces to Talk to

OK I've been asked by several people to blog more about our travels. Basically, we've been touring around Asia, partly to spread the gospel of Cousin Isaac and partly to look for a place to settle down for a year or so. One of our goals was to be budget conscience and not spend all our money. Another was to meet people and be social. Of course I also fully intended to play shows and promote my music...

Here is a quick take on all the places we have been so far...

Hong Kong ( Week 1: Sep 13-20, 2007)
We got to HK and spent a few hours in the airport making use of the free wifi and sipping smoothies from MIX as we braced ourselves for what we knew would be a hot, sticky, smoggy, expensive, and crowded city.

We got up the courage to leave the airport and made our way to our guesthouse in Kowloon's TST neighborhood. TST is bustling with bars and clubs, clothing and jewlery stores, cafes, etc. Mainly, one has to avoid the touts who come at you from all directions trying to get you into their tailor shops and fake handbag stores. It's like a video game trying to dodge them.

We found the guesthouse, which took up a few floors of a building that also housed a massage parlor (totally legit foot massage) and a no so legit brothel. It took us a while to figure out that it was a brothel- the first sign was when we saw a man being led by a tarted-up girl from one apartment to the next. Then there were the groups of men who would avoid eye-contact and change their mind about whether to go into a room every time they saw us in the hallway. Our room was small but it had aircon, internet, hot water and we only ever saw one cockroach. The brothel was an added bonus.

We got the Octopus Card which works on the MTR, busses, trams and ferries and rode them to all the tourist spots- the peak, the midlevel escalator, the big buddha on the hill, the ladies' street market, and wandered around various neighborhoods. Though we were hot and sticky, we were having fun being tourists.

The only major snafu happened two days into the trip: the e61i's web browser stopped working and it took me several trips to Nokia "care" centers to understand that they could not help me at all, even if I paid them. Nokia has no worldwide warranty and they cannot even refresh their phone's software outside of one's home country. So even though the phone was sold by Nokia unlocked, as a "World Phone" it cannot be repaired worldwide. Luckily, after calling customer service in the states, I was able to reset the phone using a code which finally got the browser back up. But I was incensed that I had to spend so much time figuring this out.

I had also driven Valerie crazy with all the visits to Nokia so I placated her by agreeing to hunt down veggie restaurants with her. Luckily, Chinese veg food is abundant and sometimes even excellent. Also, HK, being super westernized, we were even able to obtain Dagoba chocolate and organic Aloe Vera gel. So while we were annoyed, we were at least eating well and comforted by our western amenities.

Music-wise, before we left I had emailed several clubs but not one of them had returned any of my emails. I figured there might be a language barrier. Luckily, Kay, a couchsurfing contact got me a meeting at the Fringe Cub and we talked about doing a show sometime in the new year. I followed up after the meeting with email, but again, no reply. Perhaps email is not the preferred method of communication in HK, or maybe they just don't like my music. Who knows.

Anyway, I didn't have time to worry about it though because we were running around so much. Laggi, a twenty-something couchsurfer who works for Oasis HK airlines- (how cool is that?) took us around and hipped us to things like the mod lifestyle shop "Delay No More" which transliterated sounds like "Fuck Your Mother" in Cantonese. He proved it when he said the words in English and a few heads turned around in surprise. He also confirmed our suspicions about the brothel- the pink light was the giveaway. Yesteryear it would have been the yellow signs, some of which are still proudly displayed in the streets of Kowloon.

We went with Laggi to the horse races, lost all our money, and I believe I was mistaken for an Australian by a Aussie jockey who patted me on the back and said something which I didn't understand but took to be brotherly. That's when I got the idea for Aussie Bob- a travel show host who spouts inane bullpucky- videos to follow.

Next Up: Taiwan...

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