3 countries in one day

As I approach the mid-point of my stint in Hong Kong, I'm starting to feel like I'm not a complete outsider anymore. But there are still lots of new experiences to be had, and I have a few to tell you about this week.

There's an eatery in my neighborhood with kind of a western pub-slash-family-restaurant vibe to it that I've gotten into visiting at least once a week- Angelo's. Part of it is knowing that there will be someone who speaks a bit of English behind the counter and can answer questions about ingredients (I have pretty serious dietary restrictions)- many establishments around here only post menus in Chinese, and I have thus far displayed a sad lack of interest in learning the local language. I think the other part might have to do with the vibe- one thing I noticed that makes me feel comfortable at Angelo's is hearing western music on a sound system. I can't recall hearing any background music being played in local eating establishments.

I made a note of most of the music I heard last time I was at Angelo's- a real mixed bag but mostly good mix of stuff including jazz (Sinatra, Sarah Vaughn, Manhattan Transfer), FYC's She Drives Me Crazy and Bon Jovi's Livin' On a Prayer (memories of my 80s tribute band Big Hair), OMC's How Bizarre (memories of Your New Neighbors), even some Crash Test Dummies (Mmm mmm mmm mmm)- how's that for Canadiana?!

Last week I had my first movie theatre experience in Hong Kong- going to the movies doesn't seem to be as big a cultural thing as it is in North America. Maybe it's because people can get movies on DVD for so cheap just across the border in China! (But more on that later.) There only seem to be a few major theatres here in certain areas, nothing in my neighborhood- and I miss seeing independent movies, it's mostly blockbusters or local productions. I went to the Palace IFC cinema in (the aptly-named) Central area and my choice was Prometheus in 3D- a very enjoyable experience in a theatre with reserved seating and large plush leather chairs. One of the few times in Hong Kong where I didn't feel squished into an area too small for me! Oh, and FYI- there's no getting away from radically overpriced refreshments here either. But, as in British cinemas, you get the choice between sweet (caramel) or salty popcorn.

Okay, so how's this as a radical concept- monkey bars for adults! Well they exist here in Hong Kong, and I recently discovered one in a park not far from my neighborhood. They have whole jungle gyms of equipment set up for teens and adults to use, to maintain their physical fitness. And boy were they in full use when I went by to take a few photos just the other evening- in this heat people are waiting til sundown to keep their fitness routines up, but many of them have one and many of them are well into old age. There are tons of elderly people out and about- they seem to realize the benefits of staying limber.

My other new experience this week was going shopping in China, courtesy of my tour guide (and drummer) Carlos.

Having arranged for a visa earlier (not an arduous process, takes only 4 business days to process in Hong Kong) we were off by ferry to visit the shopping district of Zhuhai (basically pronounced Joo-hai). It is one of two shopping districts (the other being Shenzhen) that have sprung up into major cities in the past 20 or so years, as China realized the economic benefits of these location proximities to the countries of Hong Kong and Macau.

You definitely get a different vibe in China proper as opposed to Hong Kong- no British influence here, for one. And although there is a capitalist vibe in their business dealings, there are certain reminders of a communist state- including squares with vast open concrete spaces for political gatherings in the midst of dense urban construction.

And there are western businesses that have established presences- apparently KFC were the first ones in, and they have some major real estate. The Chinese love their chicken! In the photo below you can also see McDonald's and I also spotted a Starbucks.

We hit the huge underground shopping mall adjacent to the Macau border- and it seemed to me that there were a lot of stores selling pretty much the same stuff, most of which I had no use for. We did hit a DVD store that offered some excellent discounts on movies and TV shows- but I'm not going to think about how they can offer such good prices, because I needed some entertainment to get me through my down time during these lazy, hazy, crazy Hong Kong summers.

Post-shopping, we decided to make our way back to Hong Kong via Macau- another new experience, because the border from Zhuhai to Macau is a pedestrian one. You basically go through customs in China, walk several meters and then go through customs in Macau. So by the time we got home, we'd been to 3 countries in one day- not an unusual occurrence in these parts it seems.

Well it is now well into Thursday here in Hong Kong and time for bed, although for my North American readers it is currently Wednesday afternoon. Whatever day it is where you are, make it a good one!

Til next time,

J.

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