So, I’ve been very bad with my blog recently and a short time ago, on a trip to Wales we found my friends travel blog from when we did SE Asia. Not only could I not believe it had been 5 years since then, I also could not believe how funny it was and how many of the little things you forget… cue blog.
This time my adventures are taking me East again, to Hong Kong.
My trip started the night before, when I set off to London to stay with my friend Clemency. Unfortunately, as I was on my way down I received a message saying her key had broken and we wouldn’t be able to get into the flat, as it was too late for a locksmith and her boyfriend was away. Luckily, she has family nearby, so disaster averted and we were taken in by her aunt and uncle for the night.
The first real obstacle came early next morning, about 6am, when the tube tram in front of mine hit some metalwork on the track. As a result, the line was closed and I was unable to proceed to Heathrow. For once in my life (with Clem’s help) I had left with enough time to spare and managed to get the bus halfway around London to Paddington, catching the express with just enough time to check in (and be upgraded to business class!).
The flight went relatively smoothly until HK itself, when due to the worst storms in recent years we were unable to land. The cabin crew did their best efforts to keep us all informed but we were kept in a holding stack for what felt like hours until we were finally re-directed to land in Taiwan until the worse passed.
Several hours later we were successful and landed safely in HK despite Typhoon Pakhar’s best attempts to prevent us.
Now, despite August often being a wet month for HK, two typhoons in 10 days is exceptionally rare and I’ve only come this time of year to meet my friend Jezebel who is currently travelling in Asia.
Landing on my feet as always Jez had already booked a nice hotel to ‘treat’ herself between travels. All I had to do was jump in, perfect!
However, I was flying in a day before and as I was in London looking at hotels for the following night I was struggling to pick between an extra, more convenient night at her hotel vs. satisfying the traveler in me.
Needless to say I picked the less practical option. Instead of a fancy hotel I chose to spend a night in a rather interesting alternative. Less of a hotel and more of a complex. Only after my nights stay did I decide to actually search for the place I had stayed in.. In fact, all I had to do was type in the name of my hotel to see that it had once been described by a HK professor (who studied it for four years) as a ‘world hub of low end globalisation’. Rather condemning.
Turning up I was ambushed by people in what was essentially a maze of indoor markets. I fought my way through with my case and found the lift upstairs.
The receptionists were nice enough and at least the hotel offered the unique experience I had been looking for.
Normally I would opt for a dorm in a hostel, as it’s a good way to get to know people and get some travel tips for the city. This time, as I was only staying the night and likely to have jet lag, I had opted for a private room. This was definitely the best choice.
In fact, I slightly dread what a dorm would have been like, considering of all the places I have stayed, this was definitely the worst.
The single bed filled the whole room, except for a small fridge which not only smelt very offensive but had a pool of water collecting in the bottom. Water seemed to be the theme in this room, as although having the luxury of an en-suite, the shower head was literally over the toilet with just enough space to stand and left the whole room swimming in water after use.
Finally the additional opulence of air con was made less luxurious by the fact it was leaking. Dripping water constantly onto the view-less window sill and the bottom of the bed itself. In an attempt to be helpful, the staff gave me a towel free of charge (so generous) to place under the ceaseless drip.
The air-con proceeded to stop and start all night long to a huge whurring noise, which didn’t actually concern me half as much as the frayed and exposed wire to the broken fan underneath it!
Thankfully, as I’m writing this, I miraculously made it through the night without being electrocuted. Hurrah!
Having said all of this, it was bearable and my memories would have perhaps been fonder if I’d have been less optimistic. Always eager to explore a new city, I left my room and never one to wait for the lift, skipped to the stairwell with enthusiasm and bounded down the first few flights.
Anyone else may have been deterred by a completely empty staircase.. but as they say ignorance is bliss and I jovially made my way down past the crumbling concrete; damp, peeling walls and exposed wiring. I happily made it down to about the fourth floor when I noticed a man sitting sprawled on the stairwell, shoeless. In a typical English manner, I slowed out of politeness, in order to give him space as I passed. This was my first error (or second after booking the hotel!).
In the few seconds I slowed to pass him, he lunged and tried to grab me. Luckily and ironically, out of courtesy I had given him a wide birth. He just missed me and although he brushed my bag, my reactions were quick enough to dodge and pull my bag with me so I wasn’t held back.
In my complete naivety and shock I turned around and gave him an incredulous look. I could not for the life of me work out why he had tried to grab me! Retrospectively, I’m a moron and should have run, but it took a couple more slightly less enthusiastic flights of stairs before I realised I needed to get out of this completely isolated, rundown stairwell.
Only then, I couldn’t find a way out and obviously couldn’t go back the way I came. I stumbled upon the second floor equally deserted, full of empty street stores and came to the conclusion this was not the place to walk around on your own, especially not later on and into the night.
Once outside, the typhoon was still raging and despite my raincoat, I was soaked within seconds. I attempted to explore the streets with no map and no idea where I was, looking for food but all in vein. All I could seem to find were stores selling fried fish balls, chicken feet or intestines…. After 25 hours travelling I can’t say it was top of my list. Instead, I finally found a small place serving dim sum, so opted for the safe option of spring rolls and pork dumplings.
Obviously, that was when I was hungry and desperate. The next day in the same area I could find nothing but delicious looking restaurants… but I guess that’s just how it goes sometimes.
I made the wise decision to go to bed early and sleep off the jet-lag. Luckily, I was exceptionally tired and not kept awake (much) by the warm, damp smelling, fire hazard room that I was staying in.
Welcome to Hong Kong…