Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Duck, Duck ... Turkey?

I got to Hong Kong, and the scenery changed dramatically. Going to Hong Kong from Seoul is like having your subscription to Vogue revoked and replaced with Seventeen. The sight of my 40-year-old cabbie with purple hair reinforced that notion (as did the sight of knee-high boots with tights and shorts, which no longer looked so strangely interesting).

The ride from the airport to the hotel was a real pain in the ass. After we passed through the last toll plaza to get onto Hong Kong Island, my cabbie started pressing the "extras" button on the meter and didn't stop until it hit HK$140. I'm not sure what about me gave him the impression that I was a bumpkin. (Maybe he heard that I went looking to buy food before going to the airport lounge.) But I wasn't paying HK$140 in tolls when a sign in the cab clearly stated in English that I was required to pay much less. So I called him out on it, and he pretended that he couldn't understand me. Eventually, he realized that I was reading the rate chart. Right around then, he pulled over to the curb at some random spot in the city. He got out, unloaded my luggage onto the sidewalk and pointed at a nondescript building across the street to suggest that we'd reached my hotel. Again, I'm not sure what about me gave him the impression that I was a bumpkin. I sat in the cab and told him that I wasn't getting out until we were at the entryway of my hotel. After getting honked at relentlessly by the other cars he was blocking on the road, purple-haired cabbie relented and took me to the proper destination. And he also knocked HK$100 off the fare. I had a feeling that I probably wouldn't be as enamored with Hong Kong as I was with Seoul. (BTW -- As I later learned, it's not a very good idea to cab it into the city. Take the Airport Express instead and cab it to your final destination from the train station.)

Fortunately, salvation awaited me at my hotel -- the Landmark Mandarin Oriental. Aesthetically pleasing in every way.

See what I mean? That's a pretty good approximation of what I'd like my apartment to look like.

I settled in and then met up with friends for dinner at a sushi place. Yeah, my first meal in Hong Kong was at a sushi place. But that's not such a crazy thing. One of those friends is now an associate at my firm's Hong Kong office, but we started in New York together as summer associates. Back when we were first years, he asked me one day if I wanted to join him for a sushi lunch. Two and a half hours and $85 a person later, I wondered what the hell happened.

The meal was great, and the restaurant provided an appropriate setting for me to present my friends with a nifty gift -- chocolate sushi. Yup. Chocolate. Go here if you want to get some for yourself or your sushi-obsessed friends.

I spent the next couple of days at the office working and getting to know my Hong Kong colleagues. Quite the nice bunch. Thanksgiving was spent at the American Club. Felt strange eating turkey in the land of roast duck.

Wrapped up the trip by going over to my friends' fancy apartment for a barbecue. (Yeah, it was a very hazy day, especially way up on the 67th floor.)

I don't think Hong Kong is my kind of town. It's a lot like New York, but very different in distinct ways. More crowded, less diverse and even more obsessed with the attainment of wealth. But I'd go back, if for no other reason but the next entry.