Friday, March 23, 2012

Movin' on in

At this point, I have been in Hong Kong a month. Some things have been remarkably easy--getting our HKID cards, for instance, was not only free, but literally just a matter of waiting in a couple of lines. Other things have been joyous discoveries, like realizing that not only is the Thai place across the street better than any Thai you've had in the last three years (looking at you here, Abu Dhabi), but a meal costs less than a U.S. movie ticket.

There has been plenty of exploration, both literal and metaphorical. Mrs. Blog and I have literally been from one end of the island to the other, plus a few extra islands, and most of the travel was in search of a couch.

Our original living room seating, before we got a couple of chairs (not pictured).

That proved somewhat frustrating. It's not that there aren't lots of furniture stores, but more that the couch we wanted did not seem to exist at a price that would not look out of place on a new car. Then we found one, but it wouldn't fit in our elevator. Eventually we bought a custom-made piece, which sounds extravagant but really isn't, because everything is made in China.

And wait a second, that's where we are! So problem solved.

But living in China--even the Special Administrative Region, which is quite special indeed--is not without its challenges. Shopping for anything, not just couches, can be an adventure if you go at the wrong time. And basically, "wrong time" means "anytime when most people are not at work. Go at noon on a Saturday and you just might find yourself surrounded by a few thousand of Hong Kong's 7 million people.

Throwing elbows for... sponges, I think.

The good news for us, though, is that we have several grocery stores, malls and markets within a 10-minute walk of our front door. In fact, with minimal effort we could get inside one mall without ever going outside.

Abu Dhabi had a lot of malls, too, though, so I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea. It's not like these malls were created because people needed places to go. It's more like almost every doorway at street level leads to a shop anyway, so it makes sense to concentrate them in massive vertical spaces. Hong Kong is a hive of commerce.

That said, it's also a city that knows how to have a good time. The food here is phenomenal--we ate at the world's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant the other afternoon, spending perhaps US$20 for a dozen delicious dim sum dishes. There are bars all over the place. And a massive race track in the middle of the city, at which we spent an evening enjoying cold beer and colder luck.

Foreground: horses. Background: skyline. Not pictured: HK$10 bet on a losing horse.

To sum up: Hong Kong is an amazing place, with all the energy, excitement and frustrations of a big city. We're right in the middle of things, even if our apartment is not. And when we finally DO get that couch, we'll have something to look at:

Victoria Harbor, and behind it, Kowloon side.