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
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!
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.
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.