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Mickey Mouse and the Chungking Mansion

Hong Kong, Hong Kong

After a 20 hour train journey(!), most of which was spent sleeping, we arrived in Hong Kong! I was immediately struck by how clean everything was and, in contrast to Beijing and Shanghai, that there seemed to be no construction going on anywhere! This city was complete! After taking a trip up Victoria Peak for a full view of the city I realised why - they couldn't have squeezed in another building if they tried! High rises cover the whole area as 7 million people cram into 425 square miles.

Our hostel was an unfortunate reflection of the cities accomodation issues. We were led from the hostel (on the 13th floor of a large block of flats), which we found full in spite of our booking, to another partner hostel (also on the 13th floor in a different block which was still part of the same building..!). We were given a "twin room with ensuite" by way of an apology. What we got was something slightly bizarre. There WAS definitely a bathroom... however, what they seemed to have done is move the toilet into the shower cubical and turn the rest of the bathroom into a bedroom. There was no window and the two beds were joined in an L shape along the walls. When I asked about the internet - which was advetised on the website where I'd made this tragic booking - I was told that I would need to use the computer on the reception desk of the other hostel (in the other block)! To get revenge we decided to do this at 5am.

Anyway, we'd escaped from there and after seeing the unbelievably vast city from the hills we wandered into the Botanical and Zoological Gardens. The climate was noticeably different to that of China and huge trees and tropical plants line the streets. so you can imagine what the botanical gardens there are like. It was like walking through a greenhouse in Kew Gardens but we were outside. And there were animals! First we saw flamingos and crazy little fluorescent birds, then ring tailed lemurs,orangutans, sloths and even a massive python!

In spite of our shoddy hostel I was already slightly in love with the city and when we hit the bar scene later that night I realised this was a city living up to its own hype. There are masses of clubs and bars and although they are pricey (everything in Hong Kong costs around double what you pay in China) there are some really cool places. I ended up pickled staring lovingly out the window of a club on the 28th floor.

It is important to note that our hostel was called the Disney Deluxe (most of the hostels ended in "Deluxe") which was written in marker pen on a piece of paper and stuck outside the lift. I got the feeling that they changed the name every few weeks, probably in order to escape negative reviews. The next day, after a little walk around the Museum of History to escape the tropical rain, we got back to Disney Deluxe and were greeted by a couple of little cockroaches...! We asked for a new room but there were none available.... We'd spoken to a couple that morning who had been asked to remove their bags from their room during the day so that they could be rented out to "lovers" so we decided that settling for an extermination session with our landlord, who will forever be known as Mickey Mouse, was probably not the worst option but vowed to leave and find a better hostel for our final night.

That evening when we got home we found Mickey sleeping in the corridor outside our room! I have no idea what was going on in that 15 storey building but most of it is dodgy - it was full of Indian and African immigrants selling fake electronics and clothes by day and hash and women by night. We had one particularly horrific encounter with one of the big African ladies who sell their more than ample selves in our building. Her approach was as tempting as it was subtle, shaking her bum cheeks and clenching them while looking at us in the mirror and pouting.

After leaving the horrors of the Disney Deluxe hostel we went out into the warm, wet city and had a look around the Art Museum and walked around one of the many shopping districts. We ended up getting one of the best meals of the trip so far in a restaurant overlooking the harbour - 3 courses each and about 5 pints of chinese tea. By the time we had finished it was dark and the city was lit up in all its glory. We headed back to the mainland by ferry and headed up to the Temple Road Night Market. This is my favourite market so far - some pretty good items, very little harrassment and lots of cheap but amazing looking seafood. We didn't have room for anything after our epic feast but it was still fun to watch the huge prawns and crabs squirming around before being flung to their delicious doom.

permalink written by  steve_stamp on April 22, 2009 from Hong Kong, Hong Kong
from the travel blog: The art of being lost
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