Ben in Hong Kong©

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Robyn has left the building

Robyn has left Honkers :(

Not quite before she dragged me out on Saturday night and left me feeling more pain on Sunday morning than I ever thought possible or experienced in my life. I think I can safely say that she felt the same way, and it is now Wednesday and I still feel terrible. I think on the tail end of my generall Sunday morning weakness I have now caught some type of bug, because my throat hurts and I feel very very sick.

All my own fault.

Things are going barmy here at the office right now. In less than 2 weeks there are 52 people landing in Hong Kong to begin a new 9 month contract with the organization. Sometimes I wonder how on earth I ended up in an office trying to make that process seem sane and controlled. I have now resigned myself to the fact that things are bound to be a little bit manic and crazy no matter how hard I try. Which actually makes it seem a little bit better.

I have now replaced a sleeping Robyn on my floor in my flat with a sleeping Nikki. She is staying for a few days whilst she looks for a flat so I am getting quite used to the whole guest house thing now. Right, I have to get back to eating my lunch now.


ps. Can someone please take Robyn to the doctors when she arrives in England. She fell over 2 weeks ago and still her foot looks like it belongs to the elephant woman.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Good and Bad

Good: Robyn is here
Bad: My flat feels very small
Good: It's like she never left
Bad: She snores a bit :)
Good: we went to the beach today

Bad: It was almost a bit too hot!
Good: Robyn and I went and had an icecream
Bad: 4 hours later Robyn realized she had left her wallet where we consumed icecream
Good: We found a policeman who could help us. He said he could give us some advice.
Bad: His advice was "you should be more careful"
Good: A person had handed in the wallet to lost and found
Bad: Removed from the wallet was 4 Octopus cards, and 200 dollars
Good: The kind hearted thief did leave all cards and 110 dollars for Robyn to get the bus home

Robyn, my first ever Hong Kong crime statistic.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Back in the day...

So, here is my building on the corner of Johnston road and Wan Chai road.

But it seems to have been around for quite some time before that...

Date of this picture is unknown (any estimates?)

It is weird to look at Johnston Road back in the day! Plus you can just about see my bedroom windows :)

The same place on Johnston road is also the perspective that the above artist has chosen to capture in this painting.

Johnston Road, the only road to live on.

PS. Robyn has landed safe and sound. x

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A secret blog keeper

Not much to report right now, Robyn arrives tomorrow and is staying a few days on my fold out spare bed. I am working 9 to 5 getting things prepared for the arrival of the new staff. That's about it really!

What I have discovered though is a friend from last year who kept a secret blog. Her name is Neela and she is annoyingly perfect and so friendly i'm sure she must have a secret life where she tips over old ladies or drowns kittens for fun. Anyway, her blog can be found by clicking here .


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Out and about in Wan Chai

I took my camera out with me on a wander this afternoon. So thought I would share some pictures.

First we have my new building! Still on the one and only Johnston road :)

As you can see it is a corner building. My floor can be seen if you count 8 windows upwards from the first windows you can see above the big tree. (or just look for the 5 windowed cleaner looking painted section of the building)

I took a wander through Wan Chai markets too. There is a bit of controversy because quite a few of the markets are due to be closed and redeveloped by the government. It may not happen because of resistance from those living in the area and the media.

If they do close i might have to find a new place to buy my veggies.
But I never would buy a watch from the place.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Turn around-----f**k head

Starting next month I have decided to begin attending Mandarin lessons. This has been prompted by the realization that it would be pretty embarrassing if I end up living here for a total of 2 and a bit years and don't take the advantage of learning the language. So I am going back to school once a week!

On the subject of language, this is my latest discovery of dangerous Cantonese you can use in a taxi

Turn around = "Diue tow" (as in cow)
to call someone a f**k head you also say: "Diue tow" (as in cow)

So what's the difference? Well it's all about a slight shift in tone. To say turn around you finish the "Diue" section by pronouncing it with a lower tone. To call someone a f**k head you instead go higher with the tone at the end instead.

So if I am ever attacked by a pissed off taxi driver you know what happened.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007


When Cantonese people answer a phone they often do so whilst saying the following word: "Whyye"

"Whyye," basically means 'Hello', and you hear it used so often it becomes pretty normal when your friends call, to answer the phone that way yourself.

My office has a new phone system and so I have a new number for my desk. It seems that this number used to belong to a previous Chinese only speaking person. This is because I have started to recieve repeated calls from a Chinese speaking woman. After the 3rd phone in a day the conversation went like this with my mystery caller x.

Me: Good afternoon (Company name), this is Ben speaking.
Caller x: Whyye
Me: Hello?
Caller x: Whyye
Me: I'm very sorry but i'm afraid I don't speak Cantonese, do you speak English?
Caller x: Whyye
Me: I'm sorry, do you speak English at all?
Caller x: Whyye
Me: Sorry, I don't speak Cantonese
Caller x: Whyye
Me: Oh I don't know why, my parents are English for starters
Caller x: Whyye
Me: And Cantonese was never an option to study at school

Caller x Hangs up

Next time i'm going to grab a Chinese friend to translate for me.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Return of the Models

Wan Chai is overflowing with models. Not the toy model variety but real life walking talking catwalk type models. They are everywhere you look, crossing the roads, in shops, in my building!!! We lived in a building full of them last year, Robyn assumed they were prostitutes for the first 3 months before we corrected her.

I'm not particularly bothered about the portfolio clutching aloof models being in Wan Chai again. They don't take up much space and I have never found them crowding my faviourite restaruants. They are just increasing so much in number that pretty soon Chinese people may well be the ethnic minority.


Monday, July 16, 2007


Hong Kong has unleashed a new banknote into the system. It looks the same as all previous 10 dollar bank notes except that these ones are plastic, which should mean they last longer.

I was the unwitting reciever of a new ten dollar banknote before spending it at a local shop. It caused quite a stir. There I stood as it was held up to the light, crinkled between the cashiers fingers, then had to wait for 5 other people in the shop to stop what they were doing and also come and inspect it.

I meanwhile waited, and waited for them to finish. Was it a fake? what was the problem? Should I swap it for another 10 dollar note in my pocket? I really did not know what all the fuss was about. I then got home, switched on the news and learnt about the new notes. I also learnt that people are trying to collect the first one in circulation. The prized note with the serial number 000000001 that authorities say has been released with the rest of the new notes.

Now I can't help wondering.
Did I have that note??


Sunday, July 15, 2007

That falling feeling

Shocked to discover that no longer can the Ngong Ping Skyrail be used to visit the Big Buddha. For those who need a recap of quite what the Big Buddha skyrail is please click here.
Why does in not work? maintenance? cleaning?

The answer is none of these.

It's closed because one bloody fell off!

"a panel led by independent overseas experts was formed after a Skyrail gondola fell to the ground on June 11. They are investigating the cause of the incident and will recommend enhancements to operational safety." (Source)

I love how having 'overseas experts' come over and take a look at it might somehow ease our fears. Especially as it was overseas experts that helped make the thing in the first place.

Cable cars, the new extreme survival sport of Hong Kong.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

The big move map

I moved from where the red arrow points to where the green arrow points. Once you live in Wan Chai you see it's pretty hard to get out!


Hong Kong Protests

There has recently been pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. They were hailed as being peaceful and non violent, which having lived here for a year comes as no surprise. I think the fact that last year I did not know one instance of crime or violence occuring with any of my friends or staff in the company is a good statistic in itself.
The picture on the left was taken of the march by a news photographer. I can't be sure but it looks like the main street by our old office.
I was on that same street yesterday and came across another protest. This one was in support of those who practice a religion called Falun Gong. It's a little bit complicated but if it's to be believed, then in Mainland China these followers get a very very hard time. Freedom of religion is not something that is supported in the mainland.
The protest was huge. I think that protests have a particularly important meaning in Hong Kong. When I speak to young local friends I ask them how they feel about in 50 years time when Hong Kong is fully under the rule of China. (At the moment China only has military oversight of HongKong). They often use protests as an example of something that they can do to ensure that Hong Kong remains democratic. I don't know if this is actually the case, but if news reports are to be believed, Hong Kong knows how to protest.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Not all black and white

I have a reality channel on my television which allows me to monitor the 24 hour goings on of two people in confinement from the outside world. I can watch them eat, sleep and generally go about their daily lives.

Sounds familar? Big Brother perhaps? Well, these two people are called Le Le and Ying Ying...... And they are Pandas.

Hong Kong has gone Panda crazy! With the celebration of the ten year handover from Britain to China, Beijing made an offering of two little pandas to Honkers. This has resulted in "The Panda Channel" on television. When they are sleeping you get pre recorded stuff, but most of the time I can sit down, relax and watch the little critters eat bamboo whenever the mood suits me.
Only in Hong Kong would having such a channel be a large selling point for new cable customers.
The good news is that unlike the Big Brother house there is no issues of racism with these Panda counterparts, what with them being both black and white...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Today I had a phone conversation with a guy called Chocolate. That's not something I would ever have guessed I would do prior to arriving in Hong Kong.


Monday, July 9, 2007


I unpacked! Went to the shops, purchased food, came back to flat.
I watched TV, then decided to go for a hot chocolate on the avenue of stars. I looked for my keys.
Could I find my keys? Could I hell.

1) Look in all the obvious places
2) Look in all nooks and under bed
3) Retrace steps
4) Look in less obvious places

One and a half hours later
5) Begin to panic, maybe you left them int he door and someone stole them?!
6) Move everything in your flat, onto your bed and search it as you go
7) Still fail to find them
8) Move everything in cupboards, draws, and on the bed into the middle of the room
9) By now completely negate all the unpacking that you did over the past 24 hours

Two and a half hours later
10) Give up, have Chinese friend call locksmith
11) Decide to have a cold drink
12) Find keys... In the ice cube section of my freezer!!!!!!!!

What is wrong with me?


Sunday, July 8, 2007

Shark nets & sunsets

Last weekend was for me a period of unpacking and also becoming an official beach bum. It is hot here at the moment, to the extent that it is hitting just above 40 c with 90% humidity in the city center. So what better thing to do that visit a beach?!

Some of my only friends who are still out here are some fantastic Italians who work for a bank and Rachel, who works in the office with me. We decided to visit an unexplored beach called 'South Beach' which has no public transportation system to it (a plus point).

It is only 25 minutes away by taxi from Wan Chai though so we decided to go exploring.

What we discovered was an amazing little area with golden sands and complete with shark net. Hong Kong is going a bit shark crazy at the moment after some have been spotted very close to public swimming areas not far from an area called Sai Kung. I can't help wondering what happens if a baby shark swims through the net then grows up in the public swimming section... surely that would be like a human cafe for a human eating predator?

The other plus point for this beach is that it has a really nice beachfront bar/cafe. It seems to be run by a bunch of Gwai Lows and it is very relaxed, with giant pillows and sofa sections and a dj playing really relaxing music. I think it is going to become a regular saturday hang out.

Anyway, today we have moved into our new office and it is amazingly large. I just need to unpack all my files and stuff now!

I leave you with the view from one of my bedroom windows. (My flat is too messy with unpacking boxes to post pictures yet)


Friday, July 6, 2007


Now I am in Hong Kong I thought I might just have a little bit of a mention about two weird things I discovered in America.

Weird thing one )

A building in downtown Chicago that had sections of its wall containing bits of other historical landmarks. Wesminster Abbey is one section, there was also The Great Wall of China as well as many others.

Weird thing two)

This is a bronze statue in the middle of the city. That is not unusual. My shock came when I read the blurb at this guys feet and discovered that he was a television star! He had his own chat show or something.
Overall opinion, America could do with having a bit more of its own history.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Dear security guard of my new building,

I am a little bit concerned that you might be dead. When I walk past, day or night, it seems you are not moving. If you are just sleeping that's brilliant, but perhaps you should change your name from security guard to 'sleeping old man on chair'.

I hope you are not dead.


Monday, July 2, 2007


No pictures yet, but I now have a new flat! After being shown a fair few I have settled for one in Wan Chai. It is slightly more than I really wanted to spend but it is so nice it was worth the extra money. This month is going to be very lean till my next pay check :(

I was shown some flats that did not have security, and some flats that had prostitutes living next door. I eventually settled on an old chinese building which is literally about 4 minutes from our old flat. There shall be pictures coming soon!

ps. My bags were discovered and are now back in my hands from the black hole which is British Airways.


Sunday, July 1, 2007

In Honkers

Well I have arrived safe and sound in Hong Kong! I expected to have to work today but it turns out it is a bloody bank holiday (idiot!). The plane trip was pretty good, one brilliant moment came when a steward before take off came over on the speaker system and said "Would Mr Lee please make himself known to one of the flight crew". I kid you not about ten men then went to stand up and make themselves known. Lee being a pretty popular name if you are Chinese.

But all did not go too smoothly. I arrived in Hong Kong without my bag. Goodness knows where it is but it is not with me at present. After giving my details to the bag people (sure that is not their technical name) I went into central Hong Kong and purchased clothes then got rather drunk with Rachel, my only friend still in Hong Kong at the moment.

Today: Flat hunting!!