Hong Kong is terrifying for a country boy
It is true that the New Zealand educations system failed to prepare me for many of the realities of life. It taught the rudiments – the 3 R’s - reading, riting and rithmetic – but failed, for example, with the 3 P’s – politicians, pessimists and prostitutes (which are often the same person) and to this day I still have difficulties when dealing with each and every one.
The preparation for our first day of this journey was in my early life, the compulsory reading of Alice in Wonderland – Through the Looking Glass. At the time I did not consider it suitable material for a young man who intended to grow up to be a pirate. I’m now glad teacher wacked me into submission and I read that book because I became sure in the knowledge that there are amazing and bizarre things out there in the world. It did prepare me for our arrival in Hong Kong.
Before the day was over I had seen Superman, talking rabbits with blue ears, some bare breasted bearded Nuns, a herd of 2 legged zebra chasing a Unicorn, some leprechauns with tall green hats and a full squadron of Witches. We had arrived the weekend of the Hong Kong Rugby 7’s.
That evening our resident host and mentor took us first to the ‘Red Light’ district where, after admiring some of the ‘wares’ on early display, we enjoyed an superb meal at the Cheung Kee Club.
Matt then transported us to party central. This seemed to be an area of HK exclusively provided for drunken tourists to celebrate their rugby teams wins or to commiserate with friends as to what would have been had the ‘ref’ not been a biased blind fool. There was not a local to be seen. He disturbingly assured us that this area really livens up as the evening progressed so we decided to encourage him to have an early night for his own good. Not to mention the fact that we were suffering from too much culture taken in earlier in the day at the Art Gallery and Space Museum.
Given we are to drive through China and Central Asia, I was keener that usual to observe the driving standards and abilities in these huge cities. The journey in from the airport to our Kowloon hotel was an excellent introduction. It looked promising when the driver who looked like the sort of person you would call if you needed a ‘hit’ man, started by pulling on some sting-back driving gloves. My observations of the journey were all from inside the car because the dashboard was covered in every conceivable technological nick-knack, charm and air-freshener. The windscreen was plastered in large stickers and numerous evil looking appendages dangled from the sunvisors. The tinted side windows were covered in an additional black sheet that resulted in me being totally oblivious to anything outside the car. The driver had reserved a tiny gap to peer through but this meant he couldn’t see anyone alongside or about to overtake. I do believe this was the intention. On one occasion he slowed from 140km to 110kph in a 50kph zone – and never stayed in a traffic lane for more than 200m. On the strength of his demonstration I consider Asian driving skills are excellent.
Day 2 was exposure to Sunday in one of the world’s most densely populated cities. More resident friends, John & Ann transported us by tube, tram and taxi rides around various parts of the city to observe the population on their day off. For a country boy this was truly terrifying. A seething mass of humanity - every nationality enjoying each others company in the concrete canyons of their chosen environment … and seeming to enjoy it.
An early night in preparation of meeting Raymond – our first guide who will take us to China proper. The couple of days dealing with the formalities of gaining permission to drive in China are not one I’ve been looking forward to. It’s a period that some of my mates will either make or loose their fortunes based on which way they wagered regarding our success in dealing with the officials who hold our immediate future in their grasp.