As mentioned earlier Friday’s plan was to meet raymond and his buddies at like 530PM at his office so we could all go to the chinese buffet. Apparently there would be more collegues and friends joining us, which was cool, because more of the local influence I am exposed to the better.
I was actually able to sleep later than I thought, which was nice considering I had been up really early the previous days dating back to Japan and waking up at the ass crack of dawn to make my early flight to Hong Kong.
I started chatting with a guy in my room named “strong.” That is how he introduced himself, unless I misunderstood him, he lived in Hawaii, originally from the Midwest. Anyway I started chatting with him and listened to his bizarre stories for about 3 hours. Eventually another kid from upstairs came in to our room and we decided to get some food. We headed for some local street vendor food, really cheap, and actually not as good as I would have liked. Generally the street food has been really good but this time it was disappointing. I think it was disappointing due to how cheap the two kids I was with really were. I will pay some coin for good food in a new country and place, but these kids went for the cheapest and worst food in Hong Kong. After lunch, I told them I wanted to head back to the hostel to hang out, but I really just wanted to be on my own. I hadn’t really been on my own in a few days and wanted to explore Hong Kong solo. I decided to get my camera and stuff and head back to Mong Kok, the same place where I bought the hard drive. I wanted to pick up a few more things before I left Hong Kong, mainly a tea pot set. Ladies market it was. It is basically a market of like 5 to 6 street blocks filled with vendors anytime of the day itching to bargain and rip off a potential tourist. Only tourists go to the shops, but locals do enjoy the food surrounding the area. Again Mong Kok is one of the busiest sections of Hong Kong and mid day was no exception. After checking out the market looking for who had the tea pot set, I found my victims. There were two vendors towards the end selling the same stuff. I went to the one who I thought I could work the best with in terms of bargaining. I found the set I wanted and asked her how much “280 HKD.” I almost fell down laughing, that price was outrageous, but clearly this was the usual markup price before the negotiating began. I immediately said way too much and took 4 steps out of her little area. She instantaneously dropped the price down to 200. I said no, she asked me how much I would pay, which is standard protocol for these vendors, really in any country. I told her 150, which I felt was a reasonable price for this clay pot set that probably cost her peanuts from China. She said no no no too low I lose money, which again is a standard answer given all the time. They will make money no matter what price you pay and that is a fact. After going back and forth for about 10 minutes, neither of us budging, I suggested 180, and eventually she gave in and I won; Josh 2 Hong Kong 0. I was ecstatic about the price I had gotten. It was just over 11 USD for a 10 piece Chinese tea pot set. Really cool considering on my trip to asia I have gotten in to tea a lot. It is really good, and not stupid tea bags, but the real thing. Tea leaves in the bottom of the cup, hot water, no sugar. Delicious. After my purchase I decided to walk around a little more, just to make sure there wasn’t anything left I wanted to buy. I knew that I would be going to Thailand and Southeast Asia in a few days and there it would be pretty cheap. After the market I decided that I needed more USD for my tour through South east asia. I had to pay the tips in USD as well as the visas and I think the excursions. Plus in those countries where the currency is really unstable and there is a black market for US dollars, it is always good to have some extra cashola on you. I took out some money from the atm and then went around looking for a good exchange rate. Because I wanted to buy USD I would get hurt a little bit using HKD to convert to USD. This is where the day took an interesting turn. After going to a few places I found the one I wanted. After one place told me the rate I was looking for I came back with a lot of Hong Kong Dollars and asked to exchange to USD. She proceeded to tell me that she had no USD and that she would be short. I was like “you have to be kidding me, that is complete crap, you just told me the rate, why would you do that and not have the money on hand? She just kept saying “sorry no money,” on and on, blah blah. I was steaming, the hot air was coming out of my ears, tunnel vision. It is really hard to argue with people when they don’t speak your language, because it is very easy for them to just put you aside, smile and say something over and over again till you walk away. Most of the time they know what to say but play dumb, and take advantage of the fact that they can speak another language and you can’t. So after giving the girl a little bit of the business I went looking for another. I found a place that offered what seemed to be a great rate. Unfortunately I was thinking in reverse and was confused as to how it would convert back. See when you buy US Dollars you want the currency you are holding to be closer to 1 therefore it requires you to give up less of your currency for the US Dollars. I was thinking that I was buying HKD for some reason, because that is how I have been thinking for the past month when converting anything. Anyway I picked a place where the rate was closer to 8 not 1 and got screwed. I had gone to a place before that where the rate was .05 more in my favor, which would have made a decent difference on how much USD I would get from the conversion. Anyway, I gave her the money she counted it like 10 times and kept coming up with 3500 HKD, but in reality I had only given her 2500 HKD. I was thinking to myself “after the last place, just shut up, she has counted it like 10 times, maybe you could have some luck for once.” So she actually handed me the US Dollars it was in my possession, I was walking away then suddenly I hear the guy next to me along with the lady in the booth scream at me from a distance. They told me to come back for some reason, I knew that she must have realized that she made a mistake. It turns out the dueschebag next to me, told the lady that she had given me too much, thanks a lot a-hole. Just mind your own business and be on your own way, but no, he had to open up his mouth. We exchanged some words as the lady in the booth apologized many times to me about the error. I just smiled at her, clearly furious that the dude had blown my spot up, and took the money and just left, but not before shouting several expletives at the dude and the lady in the booth. At this point my blood pressure was through the roof and I was so mad. From before and now. But I had to move on and was actually strapped for time to get back to meet Raymond & Co for dinner. I took the trains back to the hostel, changed quickly, grabbed what I needed and then took a cab to where I was supposed to meet him, at his building. Unfortunately the cab driver did not speak much english, so I quickly called Raymond, thinking fast and asked him to tell the taxi driver where I was going. He did, and I made it. It was a little pricey, but not terrible considering it was near or during rush hour. When I got there, Raymond was a little late, late enough in fact to where I could have taken the train and walked. I was a little pissed but let it ago, because with our language barrier between us, limited in the sarcasm department, I knew that things would get really blown out of proportion so I ate it for lunch and moved on. We met and then met his friends for dinner. Same colleagues plus a friend of one of the guys. We would be meeting another co-worker along with his family. We took a train and then walked to the place. It was pouring rain. The first rain of my whole trip basically. I mean this wasn’t a drizzle, this was a downpour, as Forrest Gump said “big, old, fat rain,” and that is exactly what it was. Before I had left my apartment, I conveniently left my umbrella thinking it wouldn’t rain, even after looking outside and seeing how dark it was getting, stupid. So I hustled down the streets, using the awnings from various buildings. Thank g-d Hong Kong is so crowded with their buildings, that each building is touching or really close to where the awnings connect. So using the awnings, I maintained my dryness to a point, but was still getting rained on crossing the street and whatnot.
We finally arrived at the buffet and I was excited to eat. The buffet would come at a price, 220 HKD plus tax and other stuff. The grand total would end up being about 245 each, not bad considering how much great food there was and how much food I consumed. I wasn’t used to having endless amounts of food available or in front of me. Typically meals are small and just enough to keep away the hunger for more. I guess the exception would be Japan where I ate early and often. Anyway, the buffet was spectacular even with the numerous dishes of pork and shellfish. There was roast beef, sirloin, salads, sushi freshly made, sashimi freshly made, deserts, a chocolate fountain with plenty of fresh fruit and other tasty treats to douse the food in. I ended up going up for several rounds, and at one point, Raymond had to tell me to relax so that I would digest my food. He eats much slower than me, and I guess was not used to seeing someone scarf or inhale their food and enjoy it later. They even had western food like potato salad, pasta etc. I got some potato salad which was real good considering I was in Hong Kong. After eating like 7 rounds of food plus desert which included moose cake, ice cream, the chocolate covered treats and cakes, I was stuffed and sitting back in my chair loving life. After dinner we decided to try and play Maj Jong. A chinese game where tiles are used similar to Rummy and Poker, and played for money. The girls of the group tried to explain it to me, which I think I understood ( I will be testing my skills when I get home, so mom break out the set from Grandma!) So we all took a cab to the place, on the 7th floor of some building a little shady. It was all booked. It was saturday night and maj jong is extremely popular in Hong Kong. It is even more popular to go to a place, rent out the room for a night, and just play maj jong, drink some booze, eat, and have a good time. We were all bummed out. The girls really wanted to play and take my money. I laughed and said, yea right, well you probably will anyway, but I’ll give it a shot!
It was getting late, and Raymond was getting a little anal about having to wake up early the next day to catch a ferry to Macau. Regardless they took me to a really cool bar on the 17th floor of a building in Wan Chai, near my hostel, overlooking the city. Drinks were a little expensive, but the atmosphere was nice, and the girls taught me how to play dice games. The Chinese play dice games a lot, and when they go out especially. They have dice in a little cylinder cup and they throw the dice on the table and there are various games that use a number of a dice. Anyway we played several games sang some karaoke and enjoyed the night. I had a few jack and cokes which were a fortune, but in the end we just split the huge bill anyway and I ended up paying like 180 HKD less. I insisted on paying the extra amount since I had more drinks but they said no, we are just splitting it, so I stopped arguing and handed them the amount they wanted.
To get home Raymond and a few of us took a cab. They dropped me off at my hostel, or at the corner which was nice, and told Raymond I would see him bright and early at the IFC building in Central Hong Kong Island. Tomorrow we were headed off to Macau; a small island country/SAR off the coast of china. Previously it was held by Portugal, but in 1999 it was given back to China. There is still a lot of Portguese influence on Macau, and some old city sights to see. I was looking forward to seeing some of them, but as it turned out that wouldn’t be the case.
Saturday – last full day in Hong Kong/Macau