Brian and I checked into our hotel/hostel on the first day and I would say I think we were both surprised by it. To begin with, it wasn't really a hotel...actually it was a church with some guest rooms in it. You wouldn't have necessarilly known it was a church but you definately knew it wasn't a hotel. Luckilly it was only about 3 blocks from Elsa's family's apartment complex. The room was pretty tiny...though I imagine not so much by hong kong standards. To put that in perspective, the whole thing would have probably fit into my youngest sisters bedroom...which is fine for one young girl but not as good for two guys with lots of luggage and such. All in all, we ended up fitting in OK there without too much adjusting save for two things in particular. Firstly, the beds were quite firm. Of course by firm I really mean...hard as a rock. OK, that might be overstating it, but not by much. It was firm enough that when I lied straight on my back, there was a space beneath the small of my back where the spine curved because the bed had no deflection at my shoulders and hips. I guess I kind of got used to it but it still felt good to be back in a western bed. The second issue was with our hot water. First two days we had fine hot water and actually exceptional hot water pressure (one of the few improvements hong kong utilities have over their US counterparts). Then suddenly, we no long had hot water. Brian and I showered in the cold one day (not togther but it was cold enough that it seemed like less of an absolutely absurd idea by the end) but didn't have a chance to talk to the hotel management on account of a busy schedule, so we showered in the cold for a second day. It wasn't until day 3 that we finally figured out that every room has their own hot water heater that can be turned on and off. That big box we thought was an exhaust fan was actually behind our water supply. Upon flipping the proper switches...proper water was restored...our pride was not.
Food...this could easily fill 3-4 posts but I will try to give highlights here. First off...food is abundant, and cheap, and you eat a lot, all the time, everywhere, with everyone...but I lost weight (that is the great conundrum...its like the french paradox but with chinese food). Also, as I'm sure you might have imagined the chinese food is quite a bit different there than here. In general, many more things are steamed and almost nothing is deep fried. Also, the chinese have a knack for backed goods of all sorts that is strangely ignored here. Food also tastes like the ingredients...which might sound like a truism of sorts but really the most notable absense is in the heavy sauces usually surrounding chinese food in the states. Outside flavors are much lighter and so food there tastes like its primary ingredients and not like the spice applied to them. Restaurants are different too...first off, they are a bit chaotic with lots of staff moving around serving lots of tables. Individual tables usually dont have a particular waiter or waitress but instead you can ask for anything from virtually anyone. Usually this is convenient, but sometimes you just don't ever get what you wanted. I guess that system is a toss up for me in terms of improvement over our methods. Menus were almost always in chinese which made it difficult/impossible for us gwailo to order but its ok because even when the menu had english i usually had no idea what things were. We typically ate whatever was placed in front of us. Thankfully (or perhaps not) things tend to not only taste like their ingredients but also look like their ingredients. One particular instance involved the ordering of pigeon (dove). The bird was roasted and quartered and put on a plate. It was cut and prepared to little that with a little stiching you could have reassembled the animal at the table and maybe even shocked it back to life. Along those same lines, after finished the bird, one piece remained that brian though he might try. After reaching across the table and fumbling with his chopsticks he managed to get the last piece that he was shocked to find out was actually the roasted head of the recently deceased. He didn't eat it (most people don't, but unsurprisingly some do). Also, everything is shared by the table which is not uncommon in the states but usually all the food is eaten, which is a bit more uncommon. Often times towards the end of the meal, it was a trial to see who would finish the last dishes. Sometimes even resorting to rock paper scissors to see who would take in the last bits of tofu soup or char siu bao (though that was a dish rarely left untouched, and unlike revenge...it is best served warm). More on food to come in my post of chinese commerce...also pictures. Patrick OUT!!!