Friday, November 30, 2007

(Dis)pleasing (a)symmetry

One of the first places I visited upon arriving in Hong Kong, even before I'd really explored the central part of the city, was Stanley, a village-like expatriate haven on the southern coast of Hong Kong island that I embraced for its proliferation of charming pubs and climbable rocks. Stanley was also where Babyccino and the Hot Perfections - the band name adopted by some of the first people I met from my exchange program - was born. It's one of my first memories from Hong Kong, and set a tone for the early weeks of my stay here. Today, having entered my last week in Hong Kong, I returned to Stanley. Comparing and contrasting the two visits offered me an interesting perspective on how my time here has gone...and how it's sort of gone off the rails.

Today's trip to Stanley was made not with the Hot Perfections, but with two other cohorts from the exchange program, Matt and Vic. While I still interact with each of the Hot Perfections individually, the band essentially broke up under the stress of our trip to Cambodia at the end of September. You might call it creative differences. You might also call it massive personality conflicts and semi-open hostility. I would call it the latter.

September's trip to Stanley took about an hour and a half, and involved taking a bus into Central, then changing to another bus that went around the far side of the island to make it to Stanley in the south. But we've become far more savvy since then, and learned that a bus that passes directly in front of our dorm - going around the island in the opposite direction - goes to Stanley directly in about 40 minutes.

My first excursion to Stanley was a trip of exploration and discovery...seeing and learning more about Hong Kong, immersing myself in the fact that I was in Asia, visiting my first ever Buddhist shrine, getting to know my fellow exchange students. Today's trip was made because we received word that an expatriate bar called "Main Street, U.S.A." was showing the big Cowboys-Packers game live by satellite.

The first time down there, the trip seemed charmed. Everything was interesting, everything was fun, everything was successful. The seemingly simple Nautical Museum was bizarrely fascinating. The food tasted great. The people were nice. Today, it seemed like nothing could go right. The satellite feed for the game was going in and out, and even when it was working, the international carrier had commercials cutting off the first couple of plays of every drive. The breakfast was delightfully cheap...and that's about all I can say in its defense. For everything that didn't go right at the bar, the guy running the place had a distinctly not-my-problem attitude, which was highlighted by his continual explicit assertions that things were "not our problem."

I took advantage of the touristy Stanley Market to purchase a necessity...a hokey Hong Kong shot glass for my travel shot glass collection (I get one from every city I visit, if I can). But even that had lost its charm, as I found myself staring depressedly at a ridiculous, bedazzled American flag pin, wondering, "Who would buy this?" before a lady with a distinctly southern U.S. accent started eying the thing interestedly. All of us more or less allowed ourselves to be fleeced on the souvenirs we purchased, too exhausted from months of bargaining to put up a fight to save $2.

To be fair, all in all, I mostly had fun. The game was interesting, the company was good, and even if the food didn't taste great, grease and coffee made for a lovely hangover cure. But still, I am clearly viewing Hong Kong through different eyes now than I was in September. Annoyed, deeply embittered eyes. Less than a week to go.


Epitaph said...

In like a lion, out like a lamb.
Travel safe. I've enjoyed reading about your experiences.

Candide said...

MUAH. Almost there, hon!

KC said...

I hope you travel back home safely, Ken! I hope you'll keep writing once you get back, too. :)

Ken Basin said...

Hey, this blog predates Hong Kong and it will survive it. I have lots that I want to write right now, but I'm too busy working on final essays, or being drunk.