Hong Kong

Tufty would not like it here

I coveted a Tufty Club badge in the 1960s.  I didn’t get one but I had a board game and Tufty flanelette pyjamas.  STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN, the road was a dangerous place and Ron the Weasel who did not abide by the Tufty mantra got run over several times as I remember.  

So it is really hard to just walk out into a busy road, to not stop and look and listen.  It goes against all my childhood training and self preservation instinct.  But in Hanoi, unless you’re going to spend the whole of your stay holed up in your hotel bedroom, or walking around on the same bit of pavement, you have to break with Tufty traditions and simply step out, into the tide of scooters and motorcycles and cars and buses.  

It take a lot of persuading.  But I do it. In the spirit of adventure and to alleviate the boredom of walking up and down outside my hotel.  And I do it again and again, thinking each time it will get easier, less scary.  It doesn’t. For me, it’s a bit like skiing.  I have been going for many years, but never really get any better because I won’t point my skis directly downhill to get the necessary speed up to make turning easy.  My self preservation instinct is there for a reason.  I am not exagerating about my incompetence.   For reasons of political correctness I cannot repeat what Mr P once said to me about my skiing in exasperation at having to wait for me yet again.  But it went something along the lines of ‘You’ve been skiing for years Laura, how come you still ski like a ………?’

Our first day in Hanoi, and if I were alone I would probably just have risked a couple of roads to get to the lake and walked around it in relative safety feeling calm if not a little unadventurous.  We do this, and then as I’m with Mr P, it’s off for a mega hike across the city to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum.  As with skiing, the energy consumed by not going with the flow, quickly leaves me feeling tired and a little agitated.  But we do stop for a lovely lunch along the way though, and I plump for my usual tofu and rice, avoiding the various versions of frog on offer.  Though blogging about froggin’ has a tempting ring to it.

Mr P is neither a fan of frog, tofu or rice, so there’s leftover rice.  I am sad to think how my Mother was being given rice handouts to survive when I was born, so I fashion the leftover sticky rice into a little gift for her.

After another hour of exploring, Mr P accuses me of being chippy, and he’s exactly right in his assessment. I am tired and a little emotional and not a big fan of museums, mausoleums and being told off by a very snarky but smart soldier for walking on a piece of concrete that looks no different from anywhere else.

So instead of walking home we plump for a rickshaw.  And entrust our lives to a man on a bicycle who could be pissed or stupid or both, and take our seats in a dodgy metal affair that looks and feels as though a 14 year old school boy made it for his resistant materials GCSE, without any assistance from his welding teacher.  Buckle up and enjoy the ride.  I do, I really do, not.  But see how I put on a very brave face.

I’ve just reread this blog.  Mountains and molehills spring to mind.  Time to put Tufty to bed methinks.  

Hong Kong

A little cowardice in Hanoi

Imagine my son Tom said to his wife, “I know, let’s go out into Birmingham City Centre for the day.  We’ll take baby Phoebe on a scooter between us.  We’ll wear Bob the builder hats, she can just wear her little woolly hat, and Oh, why don’t we strap a wheelie bin on, and a Christmas tree for good measure.  We’ll put everything on sideways to make the scooter three times the width and very unstable.  It’ll be dark on the way back, but we won’t bother with lights.  We can just weave in and out with all the traffic on the Aston Expressway, maybe cross the lanes without any signals.”

I kid you not, this is exactly how it feels to be here.  I am now holed up in my large and spacious bedroom, having consumed a huge bag of cheap bright orange Whotsits and Mr P is drinking Hanoi canned beer after a 45 minute ‘initiation to Hanoi’ cab ride from the airport.  

This hotel room costs not much more than my bunk in the 8 bed dorm in Hong Kong, but here there’s a huge bigger than king sized bed, a tele, tea and coffee making facilities, and a massive bath.  And all the enticing but bad for the planet little packets of toiletries and toothbrushes and shower caps and cotton buds.  In a flash I’ve put on the complimentary robe ad the slippers and it’s only 7.21pm.  I know I know. There’s a whole world out there waiting for me to explore.  But right now I’m not sure I dare set foot outside for fear of being run over.  I’m not very good at crossing the road at the best of times, and it will take some working up to.  Right now, a five quid room service pizza and a long hot bath has never seemed so appealing.  

Hong Kong

Inebriated blog musings

Blogging publicly is getting harder I realise.  It feels lumpy, the words are no longer flowing.  It seems the more people that are involved in the day you’re going to blog about the lumpier and bumpier it gets.  You might want to write about those you’ve spent the day with.  Should you run your blog by them first, what is the etiquette about blogging stuff about others?  When you’re only blogging about yourself it’s all a lot easier.  In my humble opinion, but i’ve only been doing this about 30 days, and I’ve had far too much wine and gin to be in charge of a blog right now.  But my general feeling is that a blog worth its salt needs to be genuine and transparent.  When you start tempering and tampering the blog loses that vital spark that makes it worth reading.  But maybe that’s just the gin talking.

When I started this blog, I was flying solo, soaring and looping the loop and sometimes crashing and burning.  And now I’m coupled up and spending time with friends.  Don’t get me wrong, it is wonderful to have people to share all of this with but it’s changing the way I blog.  I have less time and definitely less insight.  I meditate less and eat and drink too much for my brain to be as sharp and observant as I’d like.  I gather too much stuff than is good for me, especially when I have to get on a flight to Vietnam tomorrow with only one piece of hand luggage.

But thankfully tonight all of this is forgotten when we head out for a last supper in Sai Kung.  To a restaurant called Padstow.  Padstow!  ‘Blimey, she’s really lost it’ I can hear you say.  But no, it’s true, and here’s a very blurry picture to prove it.  

Hong Kong

The challenges of blogging

M. “I need to go to sleep now”.

Me. “I need to write my blog now…….”

I need to sleep on this blog methinks.

Hong Kong

Let’s go fly a kite

Or camp, or pretend we’re back in Cornwall, burn our faces in the sunshine, eat the finest seafood.  Drink beer, bump into the odd cow or two. Visit the 400 year old temple, find the pirate tunnel.

Tap Mun, or Grass Island. Saturday 15th December 2018. Hard to believe we weren’t on the Cornish coastal path in the height of summer. (Apart from the temples and Hakka women in traditional dress, squatting at their chores).

In a quieter moment or two, I wondered if, before she hit hard times after her husband died, my Mother might have had a day on this island in the New Territories.  Tap Mun or Tap Muen.  A hop skip and a jump, bus and ferry ride from Sai Kung.  Would have taken her a lot longer to make her way here, back in 1945, but maybe she did.  Maybe she too felt the wonder and joy I experienced today on Grass Island.  I really hope so.

Hong Kong

You can take the girl out of the Dai Pai Dong, but you can’t take the Dai Pai Dong out of the girl

Me trying to persuade Mart in to eat noodle

You’ve probably heard the girl out of the trailer park version of this saying, sometimes used derogatorily (I’ve taken it to mean that even if you take someone out of their birthplace, usually to a “higher” social position certain qualities will always remain in them, not always good ones.  But  I prefer to think of it as a rootedness to culture and heritage.

Dai Pai Dongs.  Open air food stalls where you eat like a local, quintessential Hong Kong.  “What have you been eating for the last month?”, asks Mr P.  I take him down the back alley by our Sai Kung apartment, to a whole row of DPDs.  He doesn’t get it.  I can tell.  But I just love it.  Street food of all kinds.  At home, a baked potato from the street seller with beans and cheese, or cottage cheese and garlic butter and black pepper is an all time favorite.  In Israel I fell in love with Falafel King.  I love hot chestnuts from a paper bag.  Dumplings from a street seller.  Roasted corn on the cob, sardines sold off makeshift oil drum barbecues.  The pop up restaurants of Jemaa-el-fan square at the heart of Marrakech were a highlight of my Moroccan holiday.  And all of these could probably be closed down by Environmental Health in a heartbeat.

Everyone who knows me really well, will know how much joy I get from skip trawling – Christmas trees, items to salvage and reuse.  How sad I was to leave West Pier in St Ives, the flat I furnished with junk shop pieces, reclaimed items, charity shop finds.  How my favourite pieces in my wardrobe are from charity shops.  How, when I lived in Stratford upon Avon I knew which night the stores put out their cardboard waste, and would raid the bags for great visual display items that I could recycle into art projects for children.  

Yesterday, I had lunch in Stanley at a Dai Pai Dong.  Slurped my wanton and noodles with the locals and tourists in the know.  Sat opposite two happy giggling teenagers from mainland China.  And later that evening was lucky enough to dine at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, one of the oldest and famous sporting clubs of Hong Kong.  Both were fabulous, each in their own way but cam you guess which one made me smile the most?

Hong Kong

Goodnight from me and goodnight from him

A full on day and I’m ready to hit my Sai King sack.  So for now some pictures of us being proper (Silly) tourists.  Proper, and probably even sillier blogging tomorrow.  Promise.

Hong Kong

Everlasting Birthday

A 2 day, 2 country birthday

I awoke today in Sai Kung, to sunlight and a view of mountains, boats, trees and sea.  And a whole king sized bed, to myself.  No roomies.  No wondering if it was too early to jump out of bed, no getting dressed in bed before emerging into darkness.  What a great start to my day.  And then I cooked on a hob for the first time in a month and made scrambled eggs on toast.  Such luxury and the perfect start a day that could only get better.  A rendez vous at HK airport at 2.30pm to greet Martin from the UK.

Martin (aka Mr P and Wookiee) started his day, his birthday on the 11th December, in Stratford upon Avon, with Tom and Lisa and little Phoebe, but once he boarded the plane to Hong Kong he immediately lost 8 hours of his special day.   So we made up for it here in Hong Kong, and opened all our Christmas cards together, and he his birthday cards and presents.  There were some fabulous cards, But the very best card has to be this one of grand daughter Phoebe.

I may not have found my Mother, who would be 98, but it delights and beguiles me that she lives on a little in darling Phoebe.

Hong Kong

Don’t it always seem to go

you don’t know what you’ve got

Til it’s gone……..

Toni, the female Cathay pilot, who’s renting me and Mr P our little apartment messaged me to say it was ready.  Early.  I’d been working to a 2pm check in, could’ve zipped over, been there hours ago.  Am I, did I?

No.  2.05pm and I’m blogging.  Finding just a little hard to say Goodbye.  I make my last lunch, rice and spinach and sweet potato.  I talk to the newest roomie Ciara, from Northern Ireland.  A teacher, SENCO (Special educational needs co-ordinator), free spirit.  38, about to move to Oz permanently and awaiting visa.  Whilst waiting, quit job to travel.  Climbing bits of Everest (as you do), a month in China, here a night before heading to Vietnam, sorting out her travels on the fly.  And that’s the thing I’m going to miss.  Being part of, by proxy, the travelling tribe.  So many stories and adventures.  Inspirational, and hopeful.  That so many of us want to cross borders, find out how others live, be part of their lives, inhabit their spaces rather than close down borders and stay with what we know and who we know.  Yes, probably the start of contentious conversations, too philosophical for me who should be hitting the road.  (By the way, I’m so out of the loop, what is happening with Brexit, should I bother to come home?)

My very out dated iphone SE, doesn’t take very good pictures.  Which is sad because I want to show you in detail the best bits of the hostel.  The attention to detail that makes it special, my little home of the last month.  Yup, I know I bitched and moaned about it, but it was and still is for the next 10 minutes my home.  Before I came here I was trying to wean self off phone, the screen time reports made hairy reading.  But I wish I had a better camera and have had to fight hard not to succumb to the wonderful Huawei P20 Pro, with 3, yes 3 Leica cameras.  EVERYONE here seems to be permanently glued to large and latest models phones.  This I don’t like.  And I’m not sure with a super duper upgrade, I’d have the willpower not to join this permanently on the phone tribe.  Happened to need to be in McDonalds yesterday – don’t ask!.  Row upon row of people, all staring at their screens, fake grass separating them, eating plastic food from plastic containers, some in little booths with upside down fake grass.  All dressed in black, navy and grey, unlike Ciara this morning in the brightest neon pink, blue, yellow and purple Nepalese silk trousers.  I felt sad for them, sad for the world we are making.  And only a hop skip and a jump away from Ciara climbing Everest and me visiting the refugee huts my Mother fled to from China.  

How does that Joni Mitchell song end….?

You take paradise

and put up a parking lot  (McDonalds?) 

A few snaps of hostel life. Not in any particular order. I’d like to rearrange the pictures so it doesn’t feature the ovens, but I’m WordPress inept.