July 2005 Archives
Now that I'm likely to be stranded in Hong Kong, I might as well post some of the pics from the trip to Egypt during the past month.
A pic of the villa in El Gouna on the Red Sea (using my polarized clip as filter), on the morning we took the convoy from Hurghada to Luxor, one of the largest city (if not the largest) of Upper Egypt.
The first day in Luxor was the hardest, said our guide Rasha. Indeed, we ran from Hatshepsut's Temple, and the Valley of the Kings (skipped Walley of the Queens, it was a free vote, but close unanimity) on the West Bank of the river Nile, to Karnak (see photo), and then Luxor Temple in the city of Luxor, on the East Bank. Fucking heat.
And after Luxor, we set sail for Aswan, in Southern Egypt, on our luxury liner, the M/S Monte Carlo. With nothing better to do, we started playing Monopoly, and also mahjong. Before lunch on the second day of the cruise, my cousin Alex pulled another one of those crazy wins, a 13-yiu this time (which earns maximum fan) (Edit: and as if it wasn't awesome enough already, he also won by himself (zi mo) and by picking up the card on recovering for a flower (kong fa)!). My bro and cousin will remember that later on that day, we met the HK tour group, with whom they played lots of mahjong and lots of Chinkish card games. Shared ship with 30-40 something HKers, and 40-50 Spaniards.
Tight security in Egypt, and that was even before the bombings of Sharm-el-Sheikh occured. Armed tourist police, often seen in white uniforms, and sometimes in civilian clothes (like here).
Some hieroglyphs from Edfu temple (?), somewhere on the side of the Nile between Luxor and Aswan, on the third day of the trip I think.
One clever publicity stunt on cruise boats are animal shapes made with towels that cabin attendants would pull twice every day when doing the guests' rooms. They used a t-shirt of mine that was lying around. Even more clever, was the gorilla thing made with bed covers, and dangling from the ceiling of my cousin's cabin...
After reaching Aswan, we stayed another day onboard the M/S Monte Carlo, before transferring to the M/S Eugenie. We visited the high dam in the morning. A few stray dogs were found on top of it. So.
(Must cede comp back to Nicholas, pics later, goodnight)
Seen today between Yau Ma Tei and Jordan MTR, some of the sketchier areas of HK on the Kowloon side.
BREAKING NEWS - Hong Kong, China - My agent now says my August 2nd flight can't be confirmed. So he tries August 3rd. And so on, until I get confirmed. Meaning that bc of peak season, I'll possibly be stuck here until mid-September? I don't know whether I should laugh or cry? (or plan another trip abroad XD)
Laurent, who's currently in Tianjin, says he got a surprise vacation from work, and is now planning for a trip to Yunnan, with a beginning or an end in Hong Kong.
Edisode 2: Getting to all the right places while not doing the right thing.
That is, ask for the damn flags, because they are not on display (me and my Canadian reflexes of assuming everything that is to be sold obviously is on display - but I should've known better, counter space, even in large 百貨公司 (department stores), is a premium in HK). So anyways, I went around the whole town, wandering and feeling a bit ackward, either because of the raw salmon in that sushi cornet purchased at the Causeway Bay Park 'n Shop, or is it because I really feel as if I've seen everything in Hong Kong already?
The moment outside the HK Convention and Expo Centre, and later on the Star Ferry, was totally out of Lost in Translation (except that Cantonese is just a language I've lost somewhere on my way out of childhood). But it's a choice to visit the city like I do. I like it this way, and it'd be even more ackward if I had to follow someone or a group of someones I'm not totally comfortable with (as in, sharing relatively the same interest, and outlook on life).
No pictures of Egypt, I protest.
I actually bought:
- A set of 12 postcards of HK at night: 25HKD
- 2 x HKU Umbrellas: 35HKD ea.
- Photobook about Hong Kong Tramways: 100HKD
- Shaolin Mahjong DVD for my cousins: 69HKD
- Mini-mahjong set for my brother (comes in a regular box, along with die, tokens, season indicator): 98HKD
- 2 x 50g Pouches of Genki Sushi matcha: 35HKD ea.
- The Economist (July 30th to August 5th Issue: How China Runs The World Economy): 47HKD
I consider or should be buying (for myself and others):
- Promotional Disney T-Shirts at local Gap-ish chain Giordano: 80HKD ea.
- (Not for myself) Canon IXY55 and 1 gig SD card and case: 2,080HKD + 550HKD + 100HKD
- Skin magazines
- Food (a given)
- One of those new Sony Flash Memory MP3 Player (but it's cheaper to buy in the States with our fantastic CAD/USD exchange rate and some really highly fixed suggested retail price over here in HK): 200-320CAD
- Initial D live action film DVD, if it comes out in time...
- Japanese hairgel (b/c it's probably made for Asian hair...)
- HK Flag
- Something in Chinese usually found in French/English in Canada, such as a World Map
- 512 Mb of ordinary computer RAM: 395HKD, but the prices seem to have risen by a uniform 40-50HKD everywhere
Note: The exchange rate is currently approximately 6.3HKD per CAD (or one HKD is worth some 15-16 cents), and the Hong Kong dollar is pegged within a range comprising 7.8HKD per USD.
My travel agent is incommunicado (as soon as someone doesn't reply within the day, he's incommunicado). Therefore it still appears possible that I get stuck in Hong Kong until the peak season calms down (in September -_-) and that I get confirmed on the Narita-O'Hare segment.
Anyways, I'm back in Hong Kong after a gruesome flight from Cairo via Dubai and Singapore. I left Cairo at 2PM on Tuesday, and suddently it's 5PM in Hong Kong - the day after. But it feels good to be "home" (my aunt's tiny appartment that's still worth a few millions here), especially after feeling nauseous from above the Nicobar Island and on (the Dry Vermouth, white wine, Bloody Mary, Bailey's, and Cointreau - even over the span of 8 hours - must not have helped). But it had the symptoms of what my cousin caught on Sunday, although now I am perfectly fine after a good hot shower and the prospect of a late afternoon *horizontally-taken* nap.
Saw lots of things. Leaving Egypt tomorrow. I was on the Lake Nasser, on the other side of the country, when the Sharm-el-Sheikh events happened. We didn't hear the news right away (we were on a cruise in the middle of immersed Nubian lands - aka Nowhere), but as soon as we got to Aswan in transit for Cairo, we got the overdose of it. So tomorrow happily flying out of Egypt, and will get back to HK on the following day, time zone discrepancies included.
Fantastic sunrise pic from the backyard of the villa, caught by my uncle Bernard with his Canon Digital EOS Rebel.
Family picture taken before our night in the "desert" riding camels, gulping indecent amounts of Egyptian food, and admiring a folkloric show (including belly dance).
My grandpa in "oil king" attire.
Just another day in El Gouna...
My brother playing Shining Force (wooh, exciting).
My cousin (and host in Hong Kong) Nicholas, and me, waiting for the taxi to go to the go-cart racetrack.
We didn't scuba-dive, but went twice for go-carting, near the city centre... My first time go-carting (as well as everyone else I was racing against, except for my dad), and I won! (To their credit, my car was cerrtainly faster than theirs...)
El-Gouna Go-cart, near the city center.
Choosing the helmet (yesterday).
Getting ready for the race (today).
My cousin Alex behind, then Bro-Dave, and my dad.
The winning cart!
My father brought the camera along on the second dive trip yesterday. We saw a lot of the same things. I guess it's pretty special the first time, and then it has to start boring you a bit. Corals, fishies, more corals. On the last bit, as I was running out of air, and had to be towed back to the ship, I quickly saw a family of clown-fishes (they are common, but you rarely see their youth).
A couple of butterfly fishes about to "kiss".
Plenty of those small red fishes near the big rock formation.
Huge angelfishes (says my cousin, evaluating their size with his fingers). Amazingly, we saw some in packs in these waters.
A landscape of corals.
A big huge clam, stuck inside a rock or piece of coral. Very common.
Yellow fish, corals.
Commenting is back to registered mode.
The pickup truck taking us to the marina, from my uncle and and aunt's villa.
Our boat, the Abu Talib. "Father of Talib"; Talib is the boat owner's adoptive son.
The first dive trip, a shipwreck called the "Gianis D", a Greek freighter said to have been purposedly sunken for insurance claim... That reef is the scourge of maritime insurers (leisure divers paradise), with at least four documented wrecks... I was amazed that coral grows so quickly (the Gianis D wrecked 21 years ago and is now populated with a rich marine life - is only 30-40-something feet deep). We saw a Napoleon, and some huge butterfly fishes...
Diving equipment, and another scuba boat nearby. Moments after, a fishing boat came along, trying to sell us fresh sea products.
My dad had the underwater camera this time, but I tried taking pictures with my camera of the school of fish playing around the anchored boat.
Cardboard city El Gouna. 80% Europeans. This is a pic of the alley outside the diving shop, in the new marina area (anyways, all the streets look the same).
Didn't have my camera on the Friday dive, but I brought it along for today's. My uncle also had his encasing for his old Sony... :D
Our lady-instructor from Orca Diving Shop in the German sector of El Gouna.
Picture taken by Uncle Bernard: Brian in the middle, and me following behind.
On the last trip, we were treated to giant turtles and sea eels, but we've had few "interesting" sighting in-water. This lionfish (rascasse volante) is still a worthy catch.
Cousin Brian eating food on the yacht. Incredibly, the only Egyptian meals we had were on the diving boats (three pizza meals elsewhere, otherwise).
A cup of Earl Grey tea to digest (before a 30 mins nap while navigating to the next diving spot).
Dolphins! I was slow to react (too busy running around the bridge taking pics/vids of dolphins surfing near the boat) and didn't get to snorkle with the dolphins... My uncle/cousin/dad got as close as a meter away from some of them! Six specimens: four adults, two infants.
Can't go out without these.
The ending of just another diving expedition... Diving staff closing on the El GOuna marina.
We're staying at my uncle and aunt's villa in El Gouna, near the city of Hurghada, on the Red Sea in Egypt. 15 or 16 people family reunion in this burgh built out of nada for foreigners, who are Europeans (transactions are even dealt in Euros, not USD).
Some mahjong tiles. Besides water sports, we've been busy playing Mah Jong, or the Chinese equivalent of bridge (although, *slightly* more popular than it among young people - ask my cousins and brother). After losing for the first two days, I won three games yesterday evening! Including one incredibly lucky 8-fan (or was it 10?).
On the first day, the fish were biting, and the crabs were hopping into the cages, but the bonanza stopped the next day. That's my uncle Bernard with the fishing rod.
Scuba diving! First time since 2000 that I'm diving.
Have not seen my mom and brother since March... <3 It was a strange feeling to see them again. A comforting one for sure, but how is it when you stay so long away from your family?
Cousin Brian, bro-Dave, me, cousin Alex, and cousin Nicholas, in El Gouna outside the Indian restaurant last night.
My mother shopping for juice. Photo probably taken by my dad.
View towards the sea, from the villa.
Taken a few minutes ago. Smoking and playing, yay.
Ok. I went from HK to Cairo, via Singapore (stopover for a half-day, Tuesday). Now currently in Hurghada, Egypt, but am posting some pics that have absolutely nothing to do with where I've been for the past two/three days. But pics to document the day and a half travelling to here...
Me downtown Singapore, on the side of the river of the same name. Many tourist places are within walking distance.
Got lucky, and hit the IOC session, where the 2012 Olympics were going to be announced. Ultra-tight security, with checks at the doors of Robinsons and Raffles City, where something was going on, and policemen patrolling with their high-calibre guns in Changi. Everyone thought Paris had the best odds, but London got them instead. And almost immediately after the bombing, I had access to Internet to get the news.
Sunrise in slow-motion, as the plane flies to the West. The inevitable caught on eventually.
Flying above Saudi Arabia. That's near Iraq, or even Israel, I thought. So close to the places I always hear about in the news, and now just a few thousand metres above.
(Pic taken on the road from Cairo to Hurghada, after the half-day spent in Cairo waiting) The plane landed at around 6:30AM in Cairo International Airport. The travel agency employee picked me up before immigration, and then took me to the Novotel near the airport, where I spent the next 8 hours at the hotel waiting for my uncle's party to arrive (while trying to grab a taxi for Heliopolis, but abandonning the idea when I thought the cab driver was trying to rip me off). At 1:30PM, we got to the Airport, only to wait another 3 hours because their plane arrived late (heavy rain in Mtl). And 3-4 hours of bus to Hurghada, along the Red Sea... Bleh.
Woohoo, I was in Egypt - 2005/07/07
From the Free Airport Internet series...
This time I'm in Singapore, Changi Airport departures hall, waiting for my flight to Cairo via Dubai (the gates are open, I really should go).
I didn't see Neil Gaiman, but I still caught a very special event (or at least the preparation towards that event), the next IOC session, which is going to crown the winner of the 2012 Olympics lottery... Not a lottery, b/c you *know* Paris is going to win, and Tony and Hilary are in town just for the show. Security has been boosted up of course. Robinsons Place had security checks at all entrances, and guards walking around. You see soldiers/policemen with guns walking around here at Changi Airport.
I also spent some time with Auntie Shelley and Uncle Ben who, by pure luck, weren't there the whole week I was in S'pore. Auntie Shelley was actually gone for two weeks to Toronto and Montreal, to check on daughters and pay a visit to friends and relatives in Montreal (which included a BBQ party at my house). Which is a weird concourse of circumstances. Which is something I will be alone to care about.
Uncle Ben bought a kilo of dried pork for my family (I ran out of cash, previously... 60SGD might sound a lot, but each SGD is worth more than 1.33CAD). Of course, I'm bringing it in a Muslim country. I don't know.
Speaking of Egypt, here are my impressions: AAARGHHHHHHHHHH, my head hurts with the amount of travelling, ARHHHH. So I'll have done too many countries in Asia, and there I am going to Egypt. I'm going nuts. Let's go read the International Herald Tribune.
The first time I saw Chungking Express was in Spring of 2001. It's hard to name one single favourite movie, but if I had a gun pointed at my head, I'd go for Chungking Express anytime.
I haven't seen it for at least a year. The last time must've been after the exams period in December 2002 or in April 2003... Woaw, that's been a while. But I meant to catch this fabulous two-for-one deal again. It's hard to describe what the movie is about, but a good start would be on Google. A lot of the why I like it involves the character played by Faye Wong. The other ingredient is probably Hong Kong. Whether there's something I liked from the movie that I wanted to find in Hong Kong too? Well... I'm not sure. For one thing, besides the old Kai Tak Airport and the Chungking Mansions, I think I know where Agent 633's (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) flat is.
Facing the old police station (see picture above), because of what seems to be the Central/Mid-Levels Escalator. That'd be in the middle of Soho, probably something like corner of Hollywood Road and Old Bailey Street... I doubt a policeman can really rent that. So yeah.
My brother and cousins are all excited (even if they discard it as potentially boring) about Egypt. I am too, in a sense. dot-dot-dot. Ok, not really, I am not excited. Being in vacation for three months makes you feel desensitized about just anything supposedly "fun". I hope it's going to be just seeing them all (family, cousins, aunts, uncles, gramps) for a get-together, rather than the beginning of the end. The prospect of being based in Hong Kong rather than Montreal still exists. I don't know whether I should be excited about it or not. I guess life is an adventure, and Montreal has been an anti-adventure, thus why I like HK so much. It's a psychological simulation, I know things don't need to be that way.
Monopoly, Hong Kong Edition
I'm bringing this to Egypt. And the picture could spawn an entry on the cut-throat property market... The kids in suit selling flats on the side of Tai Hang Road? Their numbers doubled during the weekend (imagine a mountain-side Tour de France stage, but with cars instead of the bikes, and, err, young men and women in suit as crowd?), they were there under the noon sun; well, they were still there at 9PM... _O_ Things like that make me think people really take it too easy in North America...
Want a flat? Starting at CAD2.5million. :P
Not waiting for the bus.
(The rest of today's pics, as I strolled to the East end of HK Island)
View of Tseung Kwan O across the Harbour from Lei Yue Mun Headland on HK Island.
The march usually for democracy, but also the National Day of venting-out about just anything.
I didn't mean to participate in the march, really. My aunt said, as I have lunch with her and my cousin, that I already missed the flag-raising ceremony, which commemorates the handover of Hong Kong back to the government currently in power in Beijing. It was by chance that I "bumped into" the march, as I finally decided to get out of the flat at some 4PM, by direct bus 11 to Wan Chai. I noticed that the bus didn't take the usual path through Hennessy Road, but rather passed by Harbour Road (I wanted to enjoy a coffee at the Pacific Coffee in Central Plaza - and get my Economist for free). Walking back down to the heart of Wan Chai, I saw some folks on Hennessy Road waving a Taiwanese flag... Hmm, a march that late in the afternoon?
Totally improvised, but I decided to follow the flow of people. I meant to go to Admiralty anyways (the only competent newspaper stand I know of that had foreign magazines *on time* is in Admiralty - going from Wan Chai to Admiralty is just like walking from McGill to Concordia). There were a few Westerners, including a pair of dudes waving signs that said "one person, one vote, one country", or "democracy equals strength". Along the road, a bit passed Pacific Place and the Lippo Building, a bunch of organizers-like people announced we were only 20,000 people... (Indeed the mood seemed a bit down, with all those black clouds looming, and the lack of critical mass)
Sir Donald Tsang ate my hamster, but I can't vote him out of office...
One of the most bizarre moments occurred as we hairpinned back up the hill to the end point of the march. I used to follow Hong Kong politics during my high school years, particularly the stories of the last British governor, Chris Patten, and especially, then-leader and founding chairman of the Democratic Party, Martin Lee Chu-Ming. In fact, they were the two people I knew. As we climbed up the hill, this British-looking man smiled at a tall slim-faced Chinese man slightly behind me... He wore a regular white t-shirt with "Voter Express" written in behind (everyone wore white - but I kept my red linen shirt, still celebrating Canada Day (in my head). They exchanged a few words in English, and the Chinese man kept walking, keeping this smile tagged "famous person" all over. "Looks familiar... Can it be who I think it is", as I access the few memories I had of readings done on the middle-age-of-a-Internet that it was pre-1997. Probably, or certainly, when people along the way starting posing with the man.
So, is that him in the bottom left corner of your screen? o_O Anyways, enough bizarreness on this trip to make my head go bam.
So I marched up. And that was it, the end of the march. The crowds were brought to the top of that hill, and asked to disperse either down to Admiralty, or Central.
Not even worthy of local news.
The problem was that it was raining. Apparently 12,000 people gathered for the same party last year, which I suspect was helped in its attendance numbers by the fact the next day is HK SAR Establishment Day, a public holiday ^^. Anyways.
In the rain, me accompanied by my new friend, the hat from Western Canada that has nothing to do with Ontario/Quebec Canada. But still from the Canada we all like. <3
Lan Kwai Fong celebrating Canada D'eh. The organisers, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, is the largest foreign Chamber of Commerce here, and probably one of the largest Canadian-run ones outside of Canada.
Promoting Sunday portable phones? Sure... of course I would want one... if I didn't already own one.
Littering Lan Kwai Fong, but a full bottle is nowhere to be found. Actually, yes, but at 38HKD (6CAD). :P
(The rest of the pics. The videos have their filename link without a "raw" attached to it.)