After saying my final goodbyes to Joe and Selene, I dropped off my bags for one last night at Chung King mansions – the hole-in-the-wall backpacker haven across the bay from Hong Kong Island where I’d spent my very first night in the city. While I’m sure my gracious hosts would’ve offered to let me stay one more night, I still had some things to do before crossing the border into China and felt like I’d be imposing to extend yet again. This would’ve been my third extension.
Man, coming back to ChungKing after spending a month in Admiralty really highlighted just how different my experience of Hong Kong could’ve been. Had I been staying here, I almost certainly would’ve moved on weeks ago. It was a sudden jolt from a world where bellhops call you “sir” to one where incessant touts and drugdealers whisper into your passing ear, where shoebox-sized filthy rooms barely have enough hot water for a 5-minute shower, and where rickety elevators mean regular 20-minute lines. Pretty much the moment I checked myself into ChungKing…I was ready to leave 😛
After a final Saturday night out in Wan Chai, my last day in Hong Kong consisted of:
• A quick stop for supplies at Wellcome, my favorite local supermarket. I’ve got one in each country I’ve lived: in California it’s Trader Joe’s (obviously); in Kyoto it’s Gyomu; and in Hong Kong it’s Wellcome. I desperately needed some razor blades and Western shampoo, and certainly didn’t want to assume I’d be able to find them in China (Why is it that I always get such bad dandruff while traveling? I probably should stop washing my hair with bar soap to save space, hehe 😕 )
•A few hours at Starbuck’s catching up on e-mails and blogs (since reliable Internet is everywhere in Hong Kong, but nearly impossible to find in China – without isolating yourself in a cigarette smoke-filled 网吧). A few weeks back, I discovered that every Starbuck’s and 24-hour McDonald’s (which is every McDonald’s) in HK offers 20 minutes of free WiFi per day. Which of course means unlimited WiFi with a periodic MAC address change via the registry.
•A last run of gadget shopping to pick up some cheap memory for my D40 and a few other knickknacks that would cost double in the US.
•A ride on one of Hong Kong’s famous trolleys – a landmark of the city similar to its Peak Tram and Star Ferry. These bafflingly tall and thin trolleys look like they could tip over at any moment, yet the fleet has been reliably zipping Hong Kong’s residents around the city for decades. It’s the world’s only all wooden-sided double-deck tram fleet…and I’d yet to ride one.
•A stroll around Kowloon Park while waiting to meet up and say goodbye to a friend. The area was bustling with Hong Kong’s young Filipino community, dancing and playing on their Sunday off – I’m definitely glad I got to see it.
•Finally, I turned in my trusty Octopus Card and dug out my Chinese SIM card before catching the train to the Shenzhen-Lo Wo border crossing. One thing I’ve learned about traveling is that buying a local SIM – no matter how briefly I intend to stay – is such a fantastic investment it just can’t be understated. From calling up to reserve lodging to collecting phone numbers of friendly locals, without a cell phone travel logistics can really become a bit of a nightmare.
…And then, I was back in the PRC.**