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In which we do touristy stuff and are not very good at it - Tactical Ninja

Aug. 31st, 2011

02:44 pm - In which we do touristy stuff and are not very good at it

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Yesterday was 35 degrees*. We spent all day indoors except for a brief interlude in which I went hunting for sugar (which is kept with the salt and other seasonings here, in boxes not packets, and hence it took me forever to find) and came back with ceramic knives. Speaking of which, they're everywhere here and reasonably priced. I have no idea why the ones available in New Zealand are so damn expensive.

We also finished Portal 2 in cooperative mode. It was an interesting experience. I don't know if you've heard this but I'm kind of smart and Dr Wheel is also kind of smart. Turns out we're kind of smart in different ways. His kind of smart makes my kind of smart feel kind of dumb, until we strike a puzzle that requires the kind of thinking that I'm smart at, then suddenly I feel a bit dumb for ever having felt dumb. Heh. Consequently once we figured out how to communicate our various smartnesses to each other (and I learned to drive the controller sufficiently to not die every 5 minutes from something stupid), it was a lot of fun. I would like to see more games like this.





We got dressed just before sunset and took the tram to the top of The Peak. We were hoping to watch the sunset but we forgot about the Hong Kong Factor. So instead we queued for an hour at the bottom of the tram and watched the sun set from there.

The Peak sells itself as Hong Kong's No.1 tourist destination. What it is is a high point from which you can see both sides of the island, with some admittedly stunning views over the city. What it also is, is a tourist trap. And not in the "OMG Mount Victoria lookout has 20 people on it" kind of trap.

You get off the tram (which resembles the Wellington cable car) into a building which is chocka with gift shops selling all sorts of Hong Kong related merchandise. Write your name on a grain of rice? No worries!

Fortune cat?


By the thousands! Traditional Chinese costumes, fans, scrolls, postcards, souvenirs - about 20 shops' worth. I'm not good at souvenirs. Unless it's something utterly awesome, all I can think is "What would I do with it?" I brought back one small thing from South Africa (a small soapstone rhino) because it has beautiful sweeping lines - but I've yet to find anything in Hong Kong that I want to bung on a shelf and look at forever. So I've bought clothes which I'll wear, and ceramic knives which I'll use, and I may buy a book about design because they're common here and quite cool. But I just can't bring myself to spend money on tourist tack, and I'm struggling a bit even with normal shopping. My default mode is 'don't buy'. Hmm..

Anyway, after the shops, you emerge through a cafe and back out into the warm night, where you find yourself in a large square surrounded by tall buildings, each packed full of restaurants and gift shops. At this point I realised it wasn't going to be anything like the understated tourist experiences of New Zealand. We did some touristy things in South Africa too, and they weren't like this. In the USA I mostly tiki toured around with friends and skipped the touristy stuff, so this was a real eye-opener to me.

We were interested in the view, having been told it's quite romantic. Eventually we found a building that had a sign pointing to the lookout. We rode up a series of seven escalators, each cunningly placed to make you walk past more shops to get to the next. Eventually we reached the ticket scanner - yes, you have to pay to go on the viewing platform. There's a free one but it's lower and the view's partly blocked by the pay one and we thought "Well, in for a penny, in for a pound" and paid. Through the ticket barrier and out onto the platform, ready for some peaceful romance.

Not.

An average between Joel's estimate and mine puts it at about 420 other people also enjoying the peace and quiet. Those who could squeeze to the railing were also enjoying the view. We managed to squeeze to the railing:



It really is a lovely view. Sadly, for a couple of kiwis who are more accustomed to places like the Karoo or Canaan Downs as our tourist destinations, it was all a bit people-ey touristy. There were photographers who'd take your picture and sell it to you. There was a big garish pink lacy heart-shaped thing with "Love at the Peak" on it that you could stand in front of for a photo. There were people trying to sell you stuff at every turn. The restaurants were charging about three times what you'd pay for the same thing downtown.

However, it really is a lovely view and it was slightly breezy up there so somewhat cooler than everywhere else. After we'd had our fill of tourism we trekked back down to Tsim Sha Tsui (pronounced chim sha choy - sort of) which is normally shortened to TST by westerners who get tangled up with all the ch-sh noises. Which are actually ts noises but we don't do those well either. *cough*

TST is also a tourist trap but of a different kind - it's on the waterfront and it's where the designer shops are, the ones that sell genuine Omega watches instead of copy ones, and the real Prada shops and the like. It's the place where about 30% of the people you see are westerners, and on every corner there's someone trying to sell you a watch, a suit or a bag.

We went there for a burger. The burgers were very tasty. We didn't buy any stuff.


While in the burger place the TV showed some of the American Le Mans series. It made the claim to be the world leader in Green Racing. I was intrigued. Turns out it means that all prototype and GT entries must use alternative fuels and/or hybrid technology. There are prizes for the greenest entries based on fuel efficiency and emissions. There's also a manufacturer's prize which I assume is for car makers that use green techniques.

It sounds pretty cool. I only know what I've read in that one thing, and I know there are folks on here who know way more about both motorsport and green tech - so I'm wondering what those folks think of this. To me, any sport that kills upwards of two sets of tyres in any race is never going to be particularly green, but it is nice to see the effort being made, you know?

Only four days to go. Boo!

* I'm aware that Texas has been experiencing temperatures in the 40s which are causing houses to subside (not sure how). It's all relative though - in the week before I came here Wellington didn't get over 10 degrees and it bloody well snowed.

Comments:

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From:tatjna
Date:August 31st, 2011 03:22 am (UTC)
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I suspect that what they're trying to do falls on some spectrum between what exists now and the greenest solution which is probably not to have car races.

So they may be looking at it as 'greener than' rather than greenest. However, it seems they may be open to suggestions in terms of how to make it better. I wonder if anyone's mentioned the issue of relocation emissions to them.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 31st, 2011 03:51 am (UTC)
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In before heartofawarrior to say that F1 and Le Mans are not the same thing.

That having been said, yes and good.

Those folks walking down the beach to play with kids? They have kids. Kids are high-emission. Therefore I think maybe the hippies are a greener option.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 31st, 2011 04:10 am (UTC)
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Funny you should mention that.

This appeared in my feed this morning. It's an article about new methods of disposing of bodies which claim to be greener than the current methods. They include liquefaction and dry-ice freezing/shattering.
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From:clashfan
Date:August 31st, 2011 03:46 am (UTC)
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Wow, that city picture looks like something out of Blade Runner.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 31st, 2011 03:55 am (UTC)
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Welcome to your dystopian future. Everyone speaks Cantonese, there's a fireworks show at 7pm (don't be late), $25 a ticket.
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From:heartofawarrior
Date:August 31st, 2011 06:58 am (UTC)
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Until recently, the American Le Mans Series was bloody fucking brilliant - awesome, close racing between a pretty big variety of cars, as well as the whole "green motoring" aspect with the new fuels and better tires (longer lifespans, better grip, new compounds) being developed, and things of the sort. A lot of safety measures that are now employed in road cars were originally developed for and fine-tuned in racing, especially series like this that specialize in endurance - it's a perfect testing ground for things like that. Racing is not only entertaining, but it employs a LOT of people, both visibly and behind the scenes (teams, track personnel, engineering folks, R&D from companies like tire manufacturers, etc), and it develops technology that benefits people outside the "high performance driving" sector.

However...

This season, a lot of teams (like Drayson Racing, who are MAJOR players in the "green racing" scene) don't have the budget to compete (leaving a LOT of drivers sitting home or forcing them to race elsewhere), and as such are either sitting home or pursuing reduced schedules, either in ALMS or in other racing series. Drayson, for example, have gone off to get in on the ground floor of an electric vehicle racing series that is still very much in its infancy.

Also killing the series is the TV broadcast deal, or lack thereof. Y'see, countries other than the United States - where the series is fucking BASED! - have a MUCH better TV package than we do. They get to SEE the races. Here in the US, if you don't have a cable or internet company that offers access to ESPN3.com, you're out of luck for watching the races live. There is NO live TV coverage in the US - if you want to watch live, it's online streaming only. Any and all TV coverage is tape-delayed, and it's cut WAY down, into what basically amounts to a highlights package, and it's CRAP. As such, I haven't watched any of their races this year, save for the season opener: the Twelve Hours Of Sebring. The online stream to watch Sebring live was so terrible, and I was so pissed off at the whole lack of coverage on TV, that I decided pretty much on the spot that 1) I wouldn't be watching any races, and would solely keep up through Twitter and FB (I follow or am FB friends with a lot of the drivers, so it's easy to keep tabs on "my guys" - the few left racing in ALMS, anyway), and 2) unless Intersport Racing, Drayson Racing, or Audi decide to pull off a miracle and add the race at Laguna Seca to their schedule, or unless Andy Lally comes back from NASCAR, I won't be attending. Also, no Patron tequila for me anymore - they're the title sponsor for the series. No backing from me! I actually changed my drink order at dinner tonight for that reason.

So, bloody fantastic series, falling victim to those trying to "improve it". It'll probably die off, just like Formula Atlantics, or slide into and then linger in obscurity, like World Challenge or the SCCA TransAm series. *sigh*
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From:heartofawarrior
Date:August 31st, 2011 07:13 am (UTC)
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Wow, that was a bit more ranty than I intended.

On the upside: Drayson Racing Technologies

Paul Drayson is a wonderful man - he's chosen to use his racing team as a platform for getting the word out about green motoring, and done a fantastic job of it. They're not just a PR exercise, either - they've been strong contenders for quite awhile, and they got their first win last year at Road America.

On a fangirly note, it's nigh on impossible to find a sweeter team in the paddock - Drayson Racing is like a big family, and before the races get underway, they love nothing better than having the chance to show off their car, and to get out there to meet the fans and talk to people. I was a fan of them from the moment I saw them racing their Aston Martin DBR9, back when it was still under the Drayson-Barwell banner, and getting the chance to talk to Paul Drayson, Jonny Cocker and Emanuele Pirro and tell them that their team was partly responsible for getting me hooked on the series and on endurance racing in general... that was awesome. :-)
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From:tatjna
Date:September 9th, 2011 12:17 am (UTC)
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Wow, thanks for the explanation! That's.. kind of freaky, and I can imagine really unpleasant for the people it's happening to.
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