Throughout this entire trip, I’ve yet to really feel like I’m “backpacking.”
In Japan I lived in my own private apartment. I rode my bicycle around town, met up with friends, and spent weekdays at Starbuck’s working. For me, being in Kyoto no longer feels like a trip. It feels like home.
Then in Korea, after a short layover in Busan I holed up with Eli – an old buddy – and spent most of the time hanging out with him. Although I was eating new things and seeing new places, again, I wasn’t really backpacking – I was visiting a friend.
Likewise in China, when I spent my visit with Andy in his fabulous apartment. We drove around town with his private driver, met up with his friends, and ate our meals in his livingroom in front $1 Seinfeld DVDs.
And even here in Hong Kong, although I’m out on my own and staying in one of the most well-known backpacker havens out there…I still haven’t really felt like a backpacker. Maybe it’s because instead of staying in dorms and meeting new people all day and night, I’m in a private room coding away on my laptop.
Whatever the reason, this perception became the most apparent to me on Sunday night when I ran into the group of Irish backpackers I’d met while crossing the Hong Kong-Chinese border several days earlier. We sat up in their room until well after midnight, swapping stories and sharing pictures until they decided to rest up for their morning flight to Thailand. These guys were real backpackers. And somehow, it felt nice to get a quick sample of that hardcore culture once again 🙂
As I once mentioned, I try to keep all my important data backed up remotely while I’m on the road. Well, FINALLY, for the first time since Korea, I’m all caught up with the uploads.
MAN it’s impossible to get anything done on the Internet in mainland China! Not only is it tough to find, but it’s soooo horribly slow.
Those censorship servers are really, really a pain.
After recovering from my first weekend out in Hong Kong, I got in touch with Joe, an old friend of my stepfather’s from the entertainment industry (different from the Joe mentioned here). Although he’s originally from Chicago, Joe has MAJOR business in Asia – having lived for many years in both Tokyo and Hong Kong. Dan thought he’d be a cool guy to get in touch with for a quick bite to eat.
You can imagine my surprise when Joe extended the generous offer to stay in his extra bedroom for the following week, until he and his wife would be departing for Australia on the 21st. And my shock when I discovered just what kind of a bedroom this was. Because when I say Joe has big business in Asia…I mean big. His place in Hong Kong is perhaps the nicest place I’ve ever stayed…anywhere…ever. It’s a beautiful penthouse-like serviced apartment on the 24th floor of the first-class Conrad Hotel, just one block away from Admiralty Station and about ten minutes from Central. His view looks right out over Victoria Harbor, and the elevator opens directly into the massive Pacific Place shopping mall downstairs. It’s got all the amenities – restaurants, pools, and gym. And not a Hotel gym – a full gym, with everything I could ever hope for…including a fruit basket with free apples at the desk 🙂
And I thought I was living in luxury in China!
The only problem with staying somewhere so nice is that everything around here is soooo expensive – I end up having to walk quite a ways just for groceries 😆
(To put it in perspective, the same exact microSD card which I just purchased for $85HKD is being sold for $499HKD in the mall downstairs. That’s about the standard markup…for everything).
(For those of you who don’t know what a “Serviced Apartment” is – I didn’t – it’s basically an apartment that’s managed and run like a hotel. It’s fully furnished, all utilities are provided, and every day a cleaning crew comes in to make up the beds and change the rolls of toilet paper. If something breaks or you need anything, you call down to the front desk and someone’s at your door in two minutes. They’ve got bellboys and concierges downstairs, limo services to the airport, and anything else you could ever need. It’s just…not a hotel. It’s your apartment.)
Then, just when I thought Joe and his wife couldn’t be any nicer, they made yet another incredible offer: they invited me to stay here on my own during the duration of their trip to Australia (for the following nine days).
My own private first-class apartment in the dead center of Hong Kong Island?