Ben in Hong Kong©

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Still here

Honestly, i don't type for a week and I get an email from someone I don't even know asking when the next post is going to be! So I just thought I should let people know I am still alive.

Reasons for not posting much is workload. I got back from the UK recruitment trip and was told rather than asked that I was going to Canada and America for just under a month doing a similar thing. To give you a rough idea of my schedule....

Hong Kong - Vancouver
Vacouver - San Fran
San Fran - Boston
Boston - Yale
Yale - New York
New York - Toronto
Toronto - Vancouver
Vancouver - Hong Kong

I leave next week and I have to arrange everything!

So far it has been a learning curve, and surprisingly i'm not stressed, just really busy. I have contacts in every place i'm visiting should I run into trouble and have visited all the American places except Yale before. Even my boss commented that I seem surprisingly calm considering what's looming up ahead.

My cleaner is now to be a regular weekly installment in my flat and I wonder how I lived without her. She is doing my ironing before I leave for my trip and last Friday she physically stopped me walking in front of a bus! She joked that she can now put life saving down on her list of skills. I said that it just goes to show that I really could not live without her! Robyn and Hannah will be sure to meet her when they are staying at mine next month as she pops in and does two hours a week on Friday afternoons.

With the Beijing Olympics fast approaching, Hong Kong is now covered in the above official cartoony things representing the games. If you click on the picture above it is also clear how China intends to win the swimming!

Other news is that I went to the international Rugby 7's on the weekend. Tickets are like gold dust but a friend I know gets them free from his work so I got to go! Never took any pictures as I forgot my camera, but will try to find some that friends took. Needless to say I got very drunk but had an amazing time...

I leave you with this Wan Chai massage advert. It's sometimes hard to tell the legit places to go, but I somehow think that a place that caters just for overseas visitors is slightly dodgy.


Monday, March 24, 2008


Caused a scene at the supermarket this afternoon after going to buy frozen chicken, not the most exciting thing to write about I have to admit.

It started because the chicken was not frozen at the top of the chest freezer, it was soggy and unfrozen. I dived into the bottom of the freezer for less soggy chicken and the soggy defrosted stuff fell into the hole i created, sure to freeze up again. It was at this point i recalled the never ending health and safety food upringing kicked in from growing up in a hotel. Eating such food can be pretty damaging to your health.

So I did that arsey thing and asked to speak to a supervisor or manager. They displayed shock at the state of their chicken and promised to sort it out right away. However, walking away I suddenly spotted that their way of sorting it out was to put the soggy stuff back to the bottom of the freezer.

Three minutes later I must have come across to anyone walking past as the most frustrated white man regarding frozen chicken they have ever seen. Which I probably was.
(Random pictures taken on my way to the goldfish market)

Saturday, March 22, 2008


It's official!!!

The crazy weather has begun...


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Running the Wan Chai Gap

Here are some pictures from our weekly running trip across the Wan Chai Gap. A running track cut into the Wan Chai mountains above Hong Kong island.

Running through jungle

With views like this

Is so amazing.

That even Nikki goes running!!!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sunday Driver

A Sunday driver refers to an old person who you infuriatingly find yourself stuck behind whilst driving in a car. The term 'Sunday' comes about because such a driver usually only takes the car out of the garage on this day every week. It's a British term I think.

Today, whilst in the MTR (underground tube) I discovered the Hong Kong equivalent which I have named...

... 'The Mainland Chinese Family'.

During rush hour today, whilst weaving in and out of swift supersonic office workers I was halted no less that three different times. This was caused by 'The Mainland Chinese Family', who not only choose to travel during rush hour, but link arms with each other, walk slowly and gaze around the MTR like they are inside some type of alien spaceship. My impatience was not helped by the awful 'calming', music pumped around the stations to try and ease rush hour stress.

I eventually took a Mainland mother by the elbow and forcefully guided her out of the way to release the blockage of suits she had caused.



Sunday, March 16, 2008

Now you sea me

Here I am walking into the sea

(along with a shot of Laura which she may shout at me about)

And here I am choking on the sea

And for no reason, here is a friend called Richard, being dressed up as a female.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Market Living



It is now Saturday morning and I am in bed wide awake at 8.25 AM. Reasons for this is because it has been decided by friends that now the weather has got a little bit nicer, we need to have at least one day of the weekend where we are not hung over or eating rubbish food.

So the rough plan for today is as follows.

10 am - 11 am: Running across the Wan Chai Gap. (That's the running track carved into the mountain recently discovered when parents were visiting.)

1pm - 5pm: Shek O beaching/sunbathing/avoiding jellyfishing

7pm - 10pm: Charity event for abused women (Although realistically all i'm doing is going to listen to a friend play and sing in a bar that happens to be linked to said event)

I think that is more than enough action to then justify spending Sunday in the cinema or on a sofa watching films!

I have had a few emails now asking if the thing on the news about all primary children being sent home due to flu been much of an issue. Well it has, but only to the extent that the issue is that some staff have been sent home and some have to remain at work. One slightly concerning thing is that there has been talk of this flu maybe being a mutated strain of bird flu, but I think if it was we would have heard by now.

At work things are going brilliantly. My recruitment trip was even better this year than last year in terms of results. Not only that, but the quality of applicants is outstanding to the point that the competition for places is huge. Meaning we should have a really strong team next year.

Anyway, I had better get ready for a day packed with events!


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

White House Hotel, Swansea

I am taking the rare step of using my blog as a podium of outrage.

The White House Hotel in Swansea is a total waste of time if you expect to be treated with any type of respect as a guest.

  • I turned up at the "White House Hotel, Swansea" at 3.30 PM to stay 2 nights
  • No one turned up to let me in till 5.20 PM. (In their defence it was stated on the booking form 5pm check in but in really small print. They were still 20 minutes late)
  • 2 minutes before the management arrived (late), I managed to get into the hotel because a guest opened the door on the way out
  • I was given no apology of any sort, I was just asked if 'I had been waiting long', my answer was yes. Still the word 'sorry' was not used.
  • My room smelt of cigarette smoke. By this point I just wanted to sleep and made no complaint, having driven there from Scotland that same day.
  • On my final day of breakfast I needed to leave as soon as possible to make a presentation at a university. Breakfast was served at 7AM, this was stated on the breakfast room door and verbally mentioned to me when I checked in.
  • But by 7.20AM the lights were off and no one was there. One guest who was also waiting resorted to entering the dark and closed dining room (surely a safety hazard) and eventually ate some dried cereal from a coffee cup.
  • Just after 7.20 AM the same guy who was late letting us in arrived for breakfast. Again, the word 'sorry' did not leave his lips. He just said he had a cold and was not feeling well. Just what I want to hear when someone is cooking my breakfast.
  • But best of all was the smell. Not the smell of breakfast cooking, but the smell of booze seeping out of his skin. He was not unwell, I believe he was hung over.

After contact with the White House Hotel in Swansea this is the reply we got. His comments are in italics.

"Thank you for alerting me to this complaint about the alleged problems at our hotel. I should like to look at each point individually:The Guest arrived at 3.30pm. Check in is from 5pm, although I was at the local shop, another guest had opened the door, the guest was waiting in the reception when I returned, it most certainly wasn't 20mins. (Yes it was)

The guest was apologised to, it is possible that he did not understand the Welsh accent perhaps? (Errrr, If I grew up in the middle east, and now live in Hong Kong and worked and lived in America, I think I can understand the Welsh accent)

for this we apologise.The guest was voluntarily given a free upgrade to a double room.The guest made no complaint about the smell of cigarettes in the room at any time during his stay. (Ahh yes the room that smelt)

We are a non smoking hotel and there is a large sign in reception. I myself would have noticed if anyone had been smoking, since I don't smoke myself.The breakfast staff were on duty when the guest arrived in for breakfast on both mornings, I have the staff timesheets to prove it. (He is actually being totally dishonest now and I have 2 people to back me up) I wish to apologise sincerely. Yours faithfully, Mike Jones Proprietor" (I suppose the good thing is we finally got an apology)

I will admit that it is the sarcastic reply and elastic use of the truth that has prompted this posting. And the fact that it hopefully means others searching online will discover this post before booking into the hotel. So one last time.

White House Hotel, in Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom, is a pretty awful place to stay. And I should know, my mum used to own one and I grew up in it. Unlike the White House Hotel, our hotel had standards.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tax Dodger

For the entire of last year my total tax which I had to pay amounted to 80 HKD, which is just over 5 British Pounds.

Amazing deal!

And I would agree, except the amount was so minimal that I totally forgot to fill in my tax form and actually pay the government its reasonable demand.

So 6 months later, during the month of my recruitment trip, I receive three letters in quick succession.

Letter 1 states that I am in the shit
Letter 2 states I need to contact the revenue department and I am in deeper shit
Letter 3 states that I am fined 600 HKD (40 quid) and that this will turn to 8,000 dollars in one weeks time.

I'm a stupid shit.

So I hot footed it down to the tax office after speaking to the oracle that is my boss. She was considerably calmer than myself, (because she was not evading tax I suppose) and said that all I need to do is show my passport to prove I have been out of Hong Kong during the warnings and they will just forget about the fine.

So that is what I did, and it worked...BUT!!! this was just the first of two illegal moments of the week.

I got a phone call earlier today from my property agent asking to make a copy of my mailbox key.
'Why?' I asked, and the following reason was given.

My next door neighbour shares my mailbox and has lost her key.

Fine... except I never knew my mailbox was shared with anyone.

So for the past 6 months I have been opening my mailbox, seeing mail that was not mine, assuming it was from the previous tenant, tearing it up and throwing it away.

I'm considering financial fraud next week to continue my current spree.


Monday, March 10, 2008

The MTR song

push play to hear a song about our much beloved transportation system created by a very bored person...


Friday, March 7, 2008

Secret Tunnel

I landed in Hong Kong safe and sound. I was in my flat 50 minutes after the plane wheels touched the ground, which goes to show the amazing airport and transport system in Hong Kong.

My first day has been pretty relaxed, last night I went for dinner with some of the gang and today I took a brief trip to the office. From initial feedback it would seem that my recruitment trip has been a hit, which is very good news. I had not heard any feedback whilst I was in the UK, it's not the Chinese way to give praise.

On my way back from the office, I made an amazing discovery which leaves me bewildered.
I was walking through Admiralty MTR (one train stop from Wan Chai) when I decided to investigate an off shoot tunnel I have never seen before. This tunnel contains 3 huge flat escalators about 100 meters long and they seemed to be taking me away from Admiralty.

Five minutes later, I emerged from the underground in Wan Chai!
I never knew such a large tunnel route existed, and I don't think any of the friends do either. This is mainly because on more than a few occasions I have been stuck walking in the rain and not once has anyone ever suggested taking the large underground tunnel...

Hong Kong has many a secret.


Monday, March 3, 2008


Well I fly back to Hong Kong this Thursday evening after what has been a gigantic trip.

My estimate is that I have driven around 3,600 miles, and if nothing else, it has been interesting. One of the most enjoyable things has been meeting and interviewing people who may well become part of the team later this year. It is nice to begin to place together the individuals who might make up the future organization.

Being on the road for hours at a time has also been a pretty good opportunity to think about what comes after Hong Kong. Informally I have given one year notice to my boss for her to start considering my replacement. So this time next year I will be concluding my final recruitment trip for the company, just not returning afterwards.

With the benefit of being back in the country, I have realized that returning to the UK will be really difficult. I think time and certain events mean that old friendship groups have changed. Some friends have moved away, some are married and some are even pregnant! So to return will be to start all over again from scratch.
Subsequently, it is really sad to know that returning to the friendship groups of my university days will never be possible ... so this has got me thinking ... do I want to come back?!

I have resolved to apply to as many different challenging jobs in Hong Kong in order to provide me with options to stay out there if I wish. I am also going to go for all the interesting organizations that I can find in the UK as well.

Besides, who wants to return to cold wet weather when you can have hot wet weather?!!!