Ben in Hong Kong©

Friday, August 29, 2008

Falling flat

I have had one minor embarrassing moment this week that I have decided to share with you internet people.

In Hong Kong we have an amazingly efficient underground train system called the MTR. Trains usually run every three minutes on the MTR and crowds tend to move easily through the station system. However, there is a peak rush hour period between 6pm and 7pm where you will not find the MTR easy. During this time you will find it difficult, crammed, pushy and sweaty. This week I was on the MTR during just such a period, listening to loud music on my Ipod and trying to pretend that I was anywhere than inches from a sea of smelly armpits and stressed suits shouting on phones.

After trying to get on two previous packed trains I decided to push my way onto the third train that arrived at the station. In Hong Kong the doors slide open and close automatically. The problem with being near these doors in a packed train is that you need to avoid them when they close. If you get caught in these doors then they will open again, causing harried keen to get home passengers to glare at you like you just sat on and killed their cat.

Once the guillotine like doors are closed though you can then stop trying to avoid them and instead lean back against them, relaxed in the knowledge that you did not get chopped in half or delay your fellow passengers by an extra 20 seconds.

What happened though is that I was listening to my loud music, knew the doors had closed behind me but did not consider that someone other than myself may be blocking the doors in a different carriage, causing them to open again. So I leaned backwards into thin air, flapped my hands a bit, then landed on my bum on the station platform.

People stared, I went red.

In other news the third week of orientation has finally concluded for the 56 new members of the team. Last week we had 55 members of the team but I recruited an extra person over the weekend as we had a placement become available at the last minute.
Overall I think the training has gone pretty well. My role was organizing the preparation and first week of orientation. This involves recruiting the employees, supporting them before they arrive, then helping set them up with bank accounts and other such things. The remaining two weeks were specific job related training. For these second two weeks I was thankfully not doing anything other than supporting the secondary school division, so I did not have to think that much about stuff. The girl who was leading the training really had her work cut out though and she did a fantastic job. Her name is Hannah and she was in the same school as Robyn last year. It was nice that at the end of the training the secondary employees thanked her for all the hard work and generally recognized the effort that we have put into their training. This was not something instantly recognized by last years 55 employees.

No other news really. Going to Lamma Island tomorow for food at the Bookworm Cafe and then going to a house party that same evening. Sunday is probably going to a beach day.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Peak

I mentioned earlier that the visibility in Hong Kong is amazing at the moment because of the lack of pollution coming across from mainland China. So to prove it I took a trip up the Peak to snap some photos.
Below is the standard view of the peak, but you can far into the distance which is rare.

Tsim Tsa Tsui and the star ferry terminal was very clear too! You can even see a ferry chugging across the water.

Lamma Island in the distance with its powerstation

And I also found the toilet with the best view in the world that dad found once when he visited.

It was all very Ho Lang (beautiful)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Random Pictures

Well the typhoon turned out to be quite a boring event. A few trees were uprooted and things got blown around a bit, but that was about it. It was still a T9 warning when a group of us decided we could not stay indoors any longer, so we all went out to a bar called 'Typhoon'. The night then eventually led us to a Karaoke bar with French people who none of us knew, then to the Bridge bar at about 3am.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Level T9!!! (maybe 10)

It's official, typhoon Nuri will hit Hong Kong. It is now a T9 warning, which means I don't have to go to work today!

Here is what the news has to say about the typhoon.

"Hong Kong issued its strongest storm warning in five years Friday as Typhoon Nuri brought gale-force winds and heavy rains, halting trade on the financial markets and shutting down most of the city.
The Hong Kong Observatory issued the level-nine storm signal for the first time since 2003, signifying winds would intensify, and warned people not to venture outdoors. It said it may strengthen the signal to 10 later Friday.
The level-10 signal is the observatory's highest storm warning, indicating hurricane-force winds with sustained speeds of at least 118 kilometres (73 miles) an hour, and gusts of more than 220 kilometres per hour.
The top signal has not been issued since 1999 when Typhoon York hit the city, killing three people." Source

Some new facebook status updates that my friends have now written on their profiles can be found below, which I think is far more accurate reporting.

Kayleigh is no school no work..yay! HK shuts down as we prepare for a direct hit by typhoon Nuri later today!!..hopefully nobody gets hurt!

Sarah hopes she has enough snacks to last through the typhoon!

Hayley can't believe we have T8 again!Def time for a greys anatomy marathon session!

Tom wants to go home! stuck in Borneo and missing the show.

Anthony is enjoying the T8.

Kenneth damn typhoon postponed my fight!

Peter is bracing for a typhoon direct hit on Hong Kong!!!!!!

Brian is battling the storm

Asti is chillin with Typhoon Nuri


1 hour and counting

In one hour the Hong Kong Government weather people will decide if the typhoon 8 Signal will be raised. At the moment we are on typhoon signal 3 which means I will have to still go to work. However, this is what they have to say on their website.

"At 7 a.m., Typhoon Nuri was estimated to be about 170 kilometres southeast of Hong Kong (near 21.4 degrees north 115.5 degrees east) and is forecast to move northwest or west-northwest at about 14 kilometres per hour towards the Pearl River Estuary.
According to the present forecast track, Nuri will be rather close to Hong Kong this afternoon and tonight with a chance of direct hit to Hong Kong. The Observatory will issue the Gale or Storm Signal No. 8 before 8 a.m. this morning."

So it seems that I could be in for a typhoon holiday unless something changes in the next 50 minutes...


Facebook updates

The wonderful world of facebook allows my friends to write short one line updates about how they are feeling, what they are doing etc.I thought I would share some with you now.

I have just copied and pasted these onto this page. Can you spot a common theme?

Tom is stranded in Borneo due to typhoonage - see you in a few days!?

Vivian is amazed by the hordes of people in the supermarket buying groceries in anticipation of the typhoon...jeez, you'd think the world was ending or something!

Anthony is waiting for the T9 to come...

Asti is bummed the typhoon isn't coming until after work

Hayley is off to the Olympics tonight so is hoping the typhoon will hold off until tomorrow

Ben is preparing for another typhoooooon!!

Sarah is keeping an eye on the weather forecast...

although recent news is that the typhoon should hit after work tomorow and not before :(

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Level 8

There is a TYPHOOOOOON on the way to Hong Kong!!! We might get a level 8 warning and not have to go to work!!!! Fantastic!!!


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Word of the day

The Cantonese word of the day is: Zee dai kong

This roughly translates as "Thinks he is the best at everything" (arrogant)

I learnt this after talking to someone who is very Zee dai kong earlier today.

After this conversation I requested the Cantonese word for arrogant from a co-worker. As this was my best summary of the person I had just talked to.


Monday, August 18, 2008


The Hong Kong skyline (and generally all views in Hong Kong) are amazing for this time of year. You can see for miles and miles.

I mentioned this to a friend and he replied that "of course the sky and views are clearer at the moment, China has stopped all its factories and other pollution creating stuff for the Olympics, and none of it is drifting over here."

So now I don't want the Olympics to stop, because then comes the horrible smog and haze again.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Gates Of Hell

The gates of hell are open, I just thought I should warn you. This also led me to nearly calling the fire department at 2am this morning so I thought I would write about it.

Ghosts are roaming the streets of Hong Kong looking for human souls to consume, this is a month long problem that takes place every year when the portal between the human world and the ghost world becomes unlocked and 'hungry ghosts' start zipping around.

One tradition of this month long spookfest is burning hell money and other offerings on the streets to feed the ghosts (so they don't feed on you). This is usually done in big metal drums with the ash and fire drifting up the street and usually into your eyes. It seems that the brothels of Wan Chai tend to burn more money and have more of these fires on the streets than others I have seen, perhaps they feel that their occupants souls are slightly more easy to steal?

I have written a few times about my confusion regarding the giant glass cases and regular candle burning that takes place on the roof of the building across from my flat. You can read about it here. I sleep with my curtains open and woke up this morning at around 2am and looked out of my window. I then looked again, squinted and leapt fully out of my bed because the roof of this building was on fire, there was no controlled candle action going on, this was easily an 8ft high flame, my heart started hammering quite fast.

In the last week there have been two massive fires in Hong Kong so this is what I was thinking about when I grabbed my phone and keyed in 999. I then figured I should put my glasses on to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing.

And it turns out that this was just another offering to the ghosts, as there was a man watching the fire on the roof in a totally calm manner. I feel like sending the picture to the local police anyway, what idiot would make a fire that big on the roof of a block of flats where people are sleeping???


If you want to read more about the ghost festival click here

Friday, August 15, 2008

1 week down

I am writing this in my bed feeling very very sick on a scorching hot Saturday Hong Kong morning. My sickness is not because I have gone out drinking last night, it's because my tonsils have swollen to the size of dangling tennis balls. This has something to do with the week I have had introducing all the new employees of the organization to Hong Kong and each other. I am in charge of this first week when they all arrive, a week which I will now share with you.

Saturday 9 August 2008
Picked up one new employee at the airport who arrived early

Sunday 10 August 2008
Picked up three employees arriving at 10pm in Hong Kong airport. One plane substantially delayed. Eventually left the airport at 1am. Checked in two employees into hotel, took final employee to a hostel that can only be described as a cross between an Iraqi prison and a public toilet. Employee got a little nervous at this environment and so I took him to different hotel. Finally I got home at 3.30am, was just programming alarm clock to wake up at 5.30am but fell asleep halfway through with alarm cock still in my hands.

Monday 11 August 2008
Big day today, don't want anything going wrong. Employees arriving at 7am at Hong Kong airport. I'm in charge of picking them up. I get woken by the sun streaming through my window. Look at my watch, it's 7.15 am. I jump up, swear a great deal. Run outside into the road and jump into a taxi. I explain to the driver he will receive an extra 50 dollars on top of his tip if he gets me to the airport as fast as possible, i felt like i was in an action movie at this point.

I arrived at the airport just in time. Rest of the day was quite long.

Tuesday 12 August 2008
Employees in office, day starts early and ends quite late. Double check that all 55 employees have arrived, they have. Phew.

Wednesday 13 August 2008
We all travel to summer camp. Here are 4 new employees on the beach.

Thursday 14 August 2008
We play many team building games and spend lots of time in the sun. I get really sun burnt. I look like a lobster. Here is a picture of some of the team building activities.

Friday 15 August 2008
Employees back in office, we do lots of different stuff like introduce them to policies of the organization and teach them Cantonese. By lunchtime most people are commenting that I look like death warmed up. Boss sends me home. I go home. Cleaner walks into flat whilst I am in bed, i scare her as she is not expecting the sight of death warmed up in a bed. She says she will come back to clean on Monday.

Which brings me to now, writing this post whilst in bed feeling horrible. Good news is that the first week was a real success. Bad news is that I can't move from my bed.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympic fever

Is Hong Kong going crazy for Olympics? is the smell of gold medals in the air???

No, not really.

Hong Kong seems pretty subdued about the whole Olympic thing really. I have some Hong Kong Chinese friends who have told me that after the opening ceremony they felt really proud of their connection to China, but that is about it.

The ceremony itself was pretty amazing. A bunch of us gathered at a friends house and had an Olympic themed house party which was really good fun. The events started at 8.08pm on the 8/8/2008, because 8 is a lucky and powerful Chinese number.

Everywhere you look there is Olympic advertising and sponcorship etc, but I would not say Hong Kong is gripped by Olympic fever.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time there lived a boy called Ben.
He lived on the 10th floor of a big building that overlooked the kingdom of Wan Chai.
One summers day Ben decided to go to work early.
He woke up, brushed his teeth, had a shower and got ready for work.
At 6.30 in the morning Ben did not expect to meet anyone in his lift.
But when the doors opened there were three Filipino ladies.

Ben tried to be a gentleman, he was too big to fit in the small lift with the ladies.
But two of them leaned out, grabbed his shirt and insisted he join them.
Ben was embarrassed when one of the ladies touched his bum.
But he blushed even more when one tried to put her hand down his pants.

It was then that Ben realized he was in a lift with drunk prostitutes.

But only after they stated their hourly rate.

Ben got to the ground floor after being groped considerably
Then he journeyed to work
And told everyone there about his amusing experience.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Eye of the storm

Hong Kong is in a big typhoon so I woke up this morning and don't have to go to work!!!

Gotta love a typhoon holiday!



I have been threatening to visit my friend Larry in Australia for some time now, but considering I cashed in 10 days of my yearly 15 day holiday and still have 5 days to claim, I somehow never got round to travelling anywhere this year that was not work related. I think this is partly because I do not come from a very 'holiday' type family. Growing up we lived in places where people usually came and visited us rather than the other way round.

This next year in Hong Kong I am going to shake free this confining problem that I conveniently blame on my parents and actually travel, sit on beaches, get my wallet stolen, adopt a tropical rash and other holiday stuff. This has been partly prompted from my reasonably conservative boss looking at me today and remarking that "you need to go out and get drunk or have a holiday" and Nikki and Laura of going off on their adventure.

Anyway, I have got off track. I have been threatening to visit my friend in Australia and my friend just sent me this tourism video. You have to watch the whole thing to fully appreciate.

click here


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Random Pictures

Pics I have snapped whilst walking around Hong Kong the past few weeks.
(I have no idea what all the girls are doing with the cross in the bottom right hand corner, they looked menacing on a Sunday morning.)

Saturday, August 2, 2008


I think something is blocking my blog from being read, or is it just me? It keeps crashing all the time. Anyone else finding that problem? (although if you are you wont be able to tell me i guess)


UPDATE: Fixed the problem, I just had to fiddle with some of the settings and do nerdy stuff involving HTML code.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Two good friends Nikki and Laura are going travelling starting today for 4 months round Asia. They are keeping a blog which can be found by clicking here.

I am slightly concerned about their trip because Laura hates all food that does not involve meat and pastry and Nikki accepted her original job in Hong Kong before even knowing where Hong Kong was on a map. And they are travelling for four months. I expect Laura will return thin, Nikki will just get lost somewhere.

I said goodbye to them both this morning and told them to stay together and look after each other. Then about half an hour ago I recieved the following text message from Laura. (word for word, so excuse the language)

"Well we havent even left the fukin country
& weve already got problems. nikkis overstayed
her visa shes on the otherside of immigration
at the mo & we cant apply4 indonesian visa coz no proof
of flight out of country! Bllody hell!!"

So Nikki is being held by immigration in Hong Kong. Laura is on the other side waiting for her flight but does not have proof she is leaving Indonesia if she flies there, so currently will be denied a visa. (I think Nikki may have that proof but can't give it to Laura)

Quite the adventure so far!