The Twinkie Times

The life and times of a Chinese American. Born a Jersey boy, lived the expat life, attended boarding school (Lawrenceville), converted to a frat boy (Sigma Pi), got an MBA (Columbia), returned to China, and back to the East Coast now trying to carve out an identity and life as an Asian American dad (gulp) in the midst of a "tertial life crisis" ©

Monday, December 10, 2012

HK: H & H IV

An archive of previous Adventures:
Part I: Tokyo
Part II: Japan
Part III: Shanghai

This time, Henry visits Hoa in Hong Kong for a boys weekend of epic proportions.  Asia is great because traveling is generally quite efficient and convenient.  I was greeted at the Airport Express train station by Hoa since it happens to be connected to our new office in Kowloon and we headed back to his apartment together.  I was still recovering from a cold so I had the occasional cough or sneeze all of which were met with icy stares and masked eyes.  They are very sensitive to H1N1 or avian flu in HK so any sign of the slightest sniffle and I felt like I was patient zero.  In contrast, during my subway ride to the MagLev on the Shanghai side, a mother was pushing her stroller past me and hocked a loogey right on the train by my feet.  Other than my mouth dropping open, nobody batted an eye.

On Friday we had a whirlwind day at the office.  It was my first time in the brand new ICC tower and I was blown away by the complexity of the new double-decker smart elevators.  Hoa was explaining to me that none of them have any buttons for the floors and when you swipe your badge it is programmed to know what floor you are going to so it will group you with others to maximize efficiency.  The two opposite elevator banks would also alternate going up or down to leverage the physics of a massive pulley system.  Once inside your moving metal box, it is even more disconcerting when it stops all of a sudden and the robotic concierge tells you that someone is getting on the elevator in the upper level.  It seemed incredibly complex and all of my coworkers that I spoke to complained about how you have to budget an extra 10 minutes anytime you need to transfer floors for meetings.

It was great to catch up with old colleagues and chat with others who had previously only been a voice on the other end of a conference call.  After work we met up with our other good friend Joey who had recently moved back to HK from Shanghai and set off for Macau.  All of our significant others were out of town which is why this was the perfect storm for a guy trip.  Traveling to another country had never been so quick and easy.  We bought tickets for the ferry, quickly passed through customs, and found our seats on the jetfoil.  In 50 minutes I was greeted by the bright neon lights of casinos equivalent to the Asian Atlantic City.  Since Macau was a former Portuguese colony, it has a lot of European architecture and influence.  We hopped on a city bus and explored the sites a bit.  Luckily, Joey was like a walking GPS and although he had only been to the city a handful of times, he was able to navigate us around and immediately knew which stop to get off at for the center square because he recognized a certain tiled wall.  We enjoyed the Feliz Navidad decorations and bought a bunch of Macau snacks and beef jerky as souvenirs.

Next we took a tour of all the mammoth casinos.  They have most of the big players that you would expect: Wynn, Sands, MGM, and Venetian.  Almost all of the rinky dink hotels also had their own smaller casinos and the Lisboa had two huge establishments which I assumed was a Portuguese company.  The older Casino Lisboa was the home of a unique sight that was famous err perhaps notorious.  In one of the shopping malls attached to the casino there was a 'racetrack' for chickens (a Chinese phonetic euphemism for prostitutes).  Just like Las Vegas, this sin city of the East is also home to its fair share of street-walkers but in this case, it is a circular parade of beautiful women in tight dresses of every color of the rainbow strutting back and forth through the shopping mall.  To your right, a fruit shop where you can buy some pears or a watermelon, to your left, a silk shop selling everything from ties & scarves to traditional Chinese gowns.  And all along the corridor in between was a stream of cleavage and make-up looking bored as can be walking back and forth in an endless loop.

After gawking for awhile, we decided to head over to a spa to get a massage.  For most of these places, you pay an entrance fee and then food and drink are included while your massage is deducted from your balance.  The facilities were very clean and you can just relax in your robe on lounge chairs or try one of the many whirlpools, the sauna, or the steam rooms.  You could play checkers, cards, or mahjong and they even had a decent selection of DVD's with portable players.  We opted for some tea and then loosened up in the hot tub a bit before getting some dinner.  I'm a sucker for marketing so I tried the 'Portuguese' fried rice which was essentially fried rice with some weird mystery meat.  We asked what the 'Soup of the Day' was and they replied, "soup" so I guess we were probably expecting too much from the kitchen and staff.  After our massage we passed by the casino's again and considered stopping by to gamble a bit but since I could barely see through the haze of smoke and almost every table was baccarat, we decided to head back to Hong Kong.  At the ferry terminal we enjoyed some po-tarts or Portuguese egg tarts which are like the normal dim sum treats but flame seared on top like creme brulee.

On Saturday we slept in and took advantage of the nice afternoon weather to play some volleyball in the park.  I had never seen public volleyball courts on converted tennis courts before but right in the center of Causeway Bay there was a sprawling section of concrete soccer, basketball, and volleyball courts.  After dinner we headed to Blackbird Lounge where Joey knew they had a nice rooftop desk.  Our other friend Tammy was also in town for business so we enjoyed catching up while making fun of the strange mix of clientele which included a group of 50-year old women sporting tiaras.  Next stop was Brickhouse, a hidden Mexican joint in Lan Kwai Fang, which is like Sanlitun in Beijing, or Bleecker St. in the Village.  It was as if Tammy had been transported back to Williamsburg because it had the same hipster vibe as Brooklyn.  We met up with some other former NY friends there but then decided to retire for foot massages (translation: 60-minute naps)

Sunday saw us temporarily join the ranks of the yacht people.  We met Joey at the yacht club for a very nice lunch outside overlooking the harbor before we took his sweet boat out for a cruise.  That was probably the nicest watercraft I have ever been on and he took us on a leisurely cruise out to Sai Kung.  At Clear Water Bay, we slowly drifted around the marina looking at other boats and Joey excitedly pointed out different makes and models.  For Tammy and I, we could hardly tell the difference and I suppose for some guys, these big bad expensive toys are like bags for women.  I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a Goyard or a Chloe either.  We took turns driving the boat back to HK and it started to rain quite heavily as we pulled into the dock.  Hoa had already organized a 4 hour volleyball tournament at night so we went to a local shop to buy some mops in case the courts had big puddles.  Of course by the time we showed up, it had already stopped raining so we looked retarded carrying 4 mops and 2 golf umbrellas between the two of us.  Regardless, we had a great time playing ball and us two old men were incredibly sore on Monday morning.  I left the HK office at 11:30 am and then rolled into the Shanghai office at about 5 pm to finish up my day.  All in all, a great long weekend.

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