Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hong Kong


Hong Kong Island at night

You may have noticed a bit of a radio silence over the last week or so on "Irene and Man Yung's Tango Blog". This was due to the fact that there was a remarkable lack of "Tango" going on due to "Irene" and "Man Yung" being on opposite sides of the world!

It is kind of difficult to engage in any tango embrace when there are oceans separating the leader and the follower. Even the super open-embrace nuevo stuff becomes a little tricky trans-continents. I bet not even the mighty Chicho can bridge a gap like this by telephoning in his dancing long-distance (Or perhaps he could. Didn't he do it for Cosmotango 2004?)

Man Yung had to make an emergency trip to Hong Kong. Yes, he did experience a little Hong Kong Tango, but his trip was more poignant and remarkable due to the following "life-lessons" he learned while being there:

1. Hong Kong in August is really, really hot. Hotter than you could ever imagine. Hotter than you can remember even if you grew up there.

...and I mean "human soup" kind of hot. The high temperatures with the extreme humidity, pollution, lack of circulating air due to the density of the high-rise buildings, and the masses of sweating bodies everywhere made it necessary for Man Yung to take a shower at least 3 to 4 times a day.

So why was Man Yung sometimes spotted wearing a sweater, scarf and knit cap while he was in Hong Kong? It was because the air conditioning in the indoor areas in Hong Kong was always set to "f---- ing freezing". Like what they say in the energy conservation ads with environmentalist David Suzuki, you can raise penguins indoors with that kind of extreme air conditioning.

2. Cha Chaan Teng is now a major food group

Hong Kong style Cha Chaan Teng, translated as "Tea Restaurants", are now everywhere. There are hardly any other kinds of restaurants left because it seems that every second store is a Cha Chaan Teng.

Just in case you don't know what a Cha Chaan Teng is, it is a kind of cheap, no frills semi-fast food restaurant that serves minimalist food from buns to instant noodles to quick fried rice/noodles. There's also tea and coffee, drinks with tea and coffee, or both, or other drinks of varying brown or black colours that may have ingredients originating from tins. Don't expect much in terms of service. And did I mention that it's cheap?

Why the proliferation of Cha Chaan Teng? It's because life is even more difficult in Hong Kong than the last time we were there, about four years ago. Business is even more competitive, the economy is no good, and cost of living is rising. Hong Kong people didn't doggie bag leftovers four years ago - yes, wasteful, but it was a status thing to be wasteful. But now they are starting to. And they eat at Cha Chaan Teng all the time.

3. Patriotic Crocs

Man Yung's Crocs were worn down so he went to the Hong Kong Crocs speciality store for a new pair. He chose a colour (Red) that shocked and terrified his entire family.

But what was more shocking and terrifying was that there are actually Crocs that have the words "China #1!!!!" imprinted all over the front.

Man Yung asked the sales associate, "So, I see you have patriotic Crocs."

The sales associate replied, "Yes, we do."

And Man Yung pointed out, "It's not very patriotic to be stepping all over 'China #1!!!!' with your feet. Shouldn't you have those words somewhere else then, like, on your head?"

Coming soon... Patriotic Crocs foam hats. With head massaging nubs and ventilation holes - perfect for Hong Kong weather. And ugly as sin.

4. Surcharges

When checking into the hotel, Man Yung asked the hotel clerk whether the hotel room came with ghost.

The clerk said no. I guess you may have to pay a hefty surcharge for that kind of extra, and Man Yung didn't look like he had the bucks.

Upon overhearing that particular conversation, the face of the next hotel guest in line drained of colour and his hair started to stand on end. He must have been very disappointed that the room charge wasn't inclusive of haunting.

5. It is, well.... kind of difficult to fly out of Hong Kong during a Signal No. 8 Typhoon

For those people who did not grow up in Hong Kong, when a Typhoon strikes the Hong Kong area, the Hong Kong Observatory puts out a warning signal depending on the severity of the Typhoon. The signals are respectively: #1, #3, #8 and in cases of the strongest gale force winds and severe weather, #10.

Just as Man Yung was preparing to fly out of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Observatory put the territory on alert for the #8 Typhoon signal. All schools for the day were announced closed. Taxis starting charging $200 HKD extra on top of their $400 HKD fare from Hong Kong Island to the Airport (It's because insurance will no longer cover them if they continue to accept fares - scary stuff!)

Luckily, Man Yung finally caught a bus to the airport after waiting a long time in the wind and rain. And it was like the LAST bus available, the route was being shut down because of the weather. Whew!

The gusty winds and torrential rain were so severe that the bus didn't travel as normal on top of the Tsing Ma Bridge to the Airport, because the bus would have been blown clean off the bridge! Instead, the bus traveled in the sheltered carriageway in the lower deck of the bridge which is only open to traffic during this kind of typhoon weather.


Tsing Ma Bridge

Man Yung finally arrived safely at the airport in one piece. However, it was an ordeal getting the plane off the ground. There was a 2 hour delay between boarding and take off, as the plane couldn't get off the ground due to the weather conditions.

Despite all this, Man Yung's plane still arrived in Toronto 15 minutes ahead of schedule! Although it was hell rushing to make the connecting flight in Newark.

Coming up next - Life lessons learnt in the Tango Jungle of the Hong Kong milonga....

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Alberto Dassieu

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