Monthly Archives: October 2012

Shenzhen, part 1

A few weeks ago Cate and I made our first trip into mainland China. Like many Hong Kongers, we took a day trip into Shenzhen, the city just across the border from Hong Kong, in search of deals. We took the MTR north about half an hour to Lo Wu, walked through immigration, and there we were.

First, a word on immigration. HK immigration was, as always, easy. I was a bit curious—heck, apprehensive even—about what the Chinese border crossing would be like. The answer is: surprisingly quick and pleasant. Also surprising is that each passport control station has a little set of buttons like so:

A little hard to read. The buttons are labeled Greatly Satisfied, Satisfied, Checking Line Too Long, and Poor Customer Service.
(Image via SpeedofCreativity)

When they’ve finished checking your passport, the lights blink and you are invited to push the appropriate one. The number above tallies the score of that line. I would give anything to find these buttons at O’Hare’s TSA lanes. Harrumph. Continue reading



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Gym certification

There is quite a nice gym here at CityU. There are things about it that very much make it seem not like an American gym—way more badminton and table tennis courts than basketball, for example—but that’s fine. It’s got one of those swanky golf simulation rooms, where you can do driving practice in front of a screen that projects a fairway on it, and estimates your drive length once the ball hits the screen. I don’t golf, but that’s high-tech cool. It’s even got a gorgeous outdoor pool:

Nice stuff, right? (Image from CityU)

It also has a fitness room: you know, where the weights and treadmills and stuff are found. I was getting an informal tour of the campus when we first arrived back in September, and I thought Great! This means I don’t have to pay for a membership to a private gym.

I didn’t know about The Class, though. Or the online booking. Continue reading

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A private kitchen

Last night Cate and I ventured into the fascinating and awesome world of private kitchens.

A private kitchen is a restaurant that can’t call itself a restaurant. It can’t openly advertise, it can’t post a menu for passer-by to see; in fact it can’t, really, be openly visible to passer-by at all. They don’t even have official websites, relying instead on word of mouth and other means to get the word out. Because it’s not a restaurant, you see. It’s a private kitchen.

Private kitchens operate in a legal gray area. What usually happens is that some awesome (most of the time) chef and some partners buy a space (like an apartment) and turn it into a restaurant—errr, private kitchen. They’re not subject to governmental oversight because they’re not officially restaurants, and because they need to be mostly invisible, they’re typically in out-of-the-way places that are hard to find. That’s part of the appeal, of course. Continue reading


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National education: some propaganda

When we first arrived a month (!) ago, the big item in the news was the opposition to the Moral, Civic, and National Education curriculum that was being proposed for Hong Kong. The real opposition was to the “National” part and to the possible implications. Here’s the two-sentence summary of the new curriculum:

Moral, Civic and National Education is an essential element of whole-person education which aims at fostering students’ positive values and attitudes through the school curriculum and the provision of diversified learning experiences. It also develops students’ ability to analyse and judge issues relating to personal, family, social, national and global issues at different developmental stages, and enhances their willingness to make commitment and contribution.

There’s a lot there to give a reader pause. Like, students’ positive attitudes towards what? What might a good analysis and judgment of a national issue look like? Hong Kongers saw this as a ploy by China to inculcate more, well, nationalist sentiments in Hong Kong (which, as I’ve noted ad nauseam, views itself as being very distinct and different from mainland China).

Now it appears that the whole thing has been scrapped. (I’m linking to the coverage in China Daily, which tends to be much more pro-Beijing than, say, the South China Morning Post.)

But here’s a little artifact from the protests, which a colleague gave me.

The caption reads “We don’t want red education.”

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In which Cantonese is not learned

Hong Kong has two official languages: Cantonese and English. Some people speak both fluently (in my experience, native Hong Kongers who were educated in the UK or US). Most people speak one fluently and the other to some degree. Some people speak only one, and look blankly at an interlocutor when confronted with the other.

We are in that last group. Continue reading


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A couple of weeks ago Cate and I met up with a friend who was in town for a day and headed out to Stanley, a little town (and tourist attraction) on the southeast side of HK Island. Would you like to see where that is? I will show you through the miracle of embedded maps.

It’s not super easy to get to Stanley via public transportation, but fortunately cabs here are very, very reasonable. We took a cab from Central, a gorgeous 20-minute trip along winding seaside cliffs, and it cost HK$100 (about US$13). Nice. Continue reading

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The “love motels” of Kowloon Tong

One of the most clichéd (and true) observations about Hong Kong is that it is a collection of contradictions. Go to the right place and you’ll find wildly expensive mansions within spitting distance of government-subsidized housing. Steps from a so-crowded-it’s-claustrophobic street you’ll find a silent garden with a koi pond. A mom-and-pop Cantonese restaurant is right next door to McDonald’s.

Our neighborhood, Kowloon Tong, exhibits pretty much all of the above, and also features its own “whuh?” characteristics. Continue reading


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A couple of unrelated videos

So I’ve finally taken the time to upload some videos to YouTube. Whooppee.

First on the docket is this video of the cool back-of-the-seat info/entertainment center that Cathay Pacific provides. As if it weren’t obvious, this is the flight path from Chicago to Hong Kong, one of those nifty “over the top” polar routes. Yeah, I added the dopey airplane sound effect. It beats hearing all of the people around us, chattering as they try to find their seats and settle in.

Observant former Risk-players will note, about 5 seconds in, the appearance of the Kamchatka peninsula. Once you control Asia you get seven bonus armies, people.


Second is a compilation video I took of the Peak Tram. This is, amazingly, among my first forays into iMovie. Note the skillful use of the (default) crossfade transition.

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Where we are

After my long-winded post about HK geography, a number of people asked me where exactly we are relative to famous landmarks. So here is a quick tour, using pilfered screenshots from Google Maps, and some photos we’ve actually taken.

First, here is a HK overview. Click for a bigger version, if you wanna. Shenzhen, at the top, is the mainland China city that borders HK.

Continue reading

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