Ben in Hong Kong©

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Weather this week

Hong Kong is freezing. I am on my lunchbreak at work and wearing multiple layers and a scarf.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cultural understanding

I sat in the bus and saw that my stop was coming up. I looked up to the front of the bus and said "Yeow Loc Mm Goi", in my best Cantonese accent.

The bus did not stop.

So I tried again "Yeow Loc Mm Goi"

Still the bus continued, and we sped past my stop.

I considered that the bus driver could be deaf so I shouted loudly. "YEOW LOC MM GOI!"

This got my first reaction, the bus driver looked up at me in the mirror. But carried on driving.

By this point I was 100 meters past my stop and going downhill. Perhaps I was saying the Cantonese words wrong. Maybe I was actually saying "Ignore me please". It was time to switch to English.


This got a reaction "You want to stop the bus?" The driver asked.

"Yes!" I exclaimed, "stop the bus!" The bus driver nodded in reply.

But he could not stop the bus, we were on a busy road. Up ahead was a bus stop though, so no worries.

But we sped past that bus stop and continued on.

"You want to get off?"

But we sped past the second bus stop on the road. This was the point where I totally lost my cultural sensibility.


The bus stopped. I left in a flurry or angry brit abroad attitude.

I walked back 20 minutes to the meeting, uphill. Frustrated.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The 25 Panic

Laura returned from her exciting four months traveling in Asia safe and sound. It was nice to see her again and it now feels like she has never left.

I don't think I fully appreciate how much Nikki and Laura gave up during their journey. Nikki can count on one hand how many places she stayed in that offered hot water showers. And it seems like they got into some pretty difficult situations at times too.

Still I did not fully appreciate their plight till after Laura returned home and opened up her wash bag at the kitchen table where I was sitting. Whilst she was getting ready to go to the Bridge bar for a drink, a very exotic looking cockroach crawled out of her washbag and towards my arm.

I'm not going to lie, I did jump up and scream a little.

But the cockroach was not the only thing that Laura and Nikki have returned home with. They seem to have also returned with The 25 Panic.

The 25 Panic is not hard to explain. It is a medial condition that I have witnessed taking place in Hong Kong every year and it goes in the following stages.

  1. People realize they are turning 25
  2. They then then realize that their life is not on track for the career/children/marriage/house/white picket fence they imagined they should have by now
  3. They panic and do something drastic

I can provide numerous case studies that are examples of people I know hitting the 25 Panic but to do so would be unfair. So rest assured that I can think of at least 6 people I know who have caught the disease and quite often run away back to London looking for the cure.

Laura put it best when she realized that her list of "things I want to do before I'm 30" will take her to the age of 60 to complete, and how can you factor in living in Europe, learning a language, skydiving and visiting numerous countries with the additional issues of finding a career?

So this was the subject of conversation round the dinner table last night, and this is how those people deal with the situation.

Laura: Talks about the 25 Panic

Nikki: Avoids thinking about the 25 Panic

George: Does not need to think about the 25 Panic as he is 21 or 22 (i forget)

Ben (me): Has got a list of options regarding his 25 Panic but can't actually decide which one to take. Causing panic.

So on May the 8th 2009 prepare for my 25 Panic. I might shut down the blog, move to Indonesia, take up pig hunting and change my name. Let us hope that a 25 Panic pill can be found before then.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kowloon City Strike Force

"So why did you decide to be in a band if you are not really that great at playing the guitar"? I asked Donald a few weeks ago.

"Well, when you get older, you have to be able to say you were once in a band", came the reply.

Last night was the debut for 'Kowloon City Strike Force', a band consisting of four guys, three of which I have known since arriving in Hong Kong. It was an accident that they were even on stage last night, Donald got drunk and agreed to the band playing after another band pulled out at the last minute.

Well the location of the show was the first problem. It was in Kwun Tong which is further than we are used to travelling for a night out. The second issue was the location, it was on the tenth floor of a warehouse building that was in a quiet backstreet of a quiet area you would never think of normally going for a show. We knew that we were in the right place though because we got into a lift with a bunch of black dressed gothic looking Chinese music fans.

And the warehouse name was amusing.

So other than being the only Western people on the 10th floor of a warehouse building in a backstreet of Hong Kong... How did they do?

Well you can click here for a quick video of them playing.

And here are a couple of pictures.

And my opinion was that they were quite good, but the main focus was on Richard the drummer. He was in the middle of the stage and more of a showman than the rest. He was also really loud, kind of like a kid with a new drum set in a library. Kids should be seen and not heard, Drummers should be heard and not seen. Richard was both. Though he was good.

I think if they manage to get a balance sorted out then they would be better.

This is Ben, music critic with not musical talent, reporting from Hong Kong.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Caption Competition

Please no one tell her this is on here.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Financial Crisis...

Seeing as Hong Kong is a financial hub, and the whole world is currently gripped by a financial crisis, I thought I would write about how it is affecting me.

Well it is not really causing me any bother at all. The only slight personal change I have noticed is that some European yogurt I used to buy has gone up in price by about 20 Hong Kong dollars in one week. So I stopped buying it and instead now buy a Chinese brand that is probably laced with Melamine. I know some banking people who are at risk from losing their jobs, and I know that quite a few others have lost them already, but other than this Hong Kong seems to be business as usual.

If anything, the financial problems are quite good for me right now. The exchange rate for Hong Kong dollars to British Pounds last year was about 15.9. It is now 11.4. This means that saving money has beome that little bit easier whilst the cost of living in Hong Kong is basically the same.

I know that this is not going to be the case forever though. Within the next year I will be job hunting and then I will be likely facing some issues, till then I am not really bothered by the rise and fall of stock markets.

In other news Laura returns from her massive 4 month trek this evening and our other friend George is also visiting Hong Kong for a few days at the same time. Nikki has been sleeping on my floor for quite a while since she returned back from travelling and she has just moved out yesterday to go and stay somewhere else. I thought it would be difficult to have her staying in my small flat for so long but it has actually been really easy. Truth be told I quite miss her at the moment!

It is Saturday morning as I type this and I have no plans at all. We were meant to be going hiking and camping this weekend but it got called off. Instead I am meeting Nikki and George at the Flying Pan for breakfast in half an hour and then we will see where the wind takes us. We went to the Bridge bar last night so I feel we deserve a fry up.


ps: For Hannah and anyone else interested, I found a video of Chris doing standup omedy on yourtube (Chris used to work for he company) click here

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pictures from the Sedan Chair Race

There is quite a bit of focus on a girl dressed as a mouse. That is my friend Kristy and she was very funny.


Monday, November 17, 2008


I am going to the Philippines for Christmas!!!

This is exciting because it is a new place in Asia that I have never travelled to. I am going with a friend who is very organized when it comes to planning trips etc, so it means I don't have to do too much organizing which is good.

I was at first a little bit concerned about the Philippines because it has mixed reviews and some dangerous areas. I did my research though and discovered that there are certain places you should avoid, but otherwise it is just as dangerous as parts of London.

The weekend has now passed and I spent it going to Sai Kung for an amazing bbq and also the peak to see a friend dress as a mouse and take part in a sedan chair race for charity. Pictures to come soon!


Monday, November 10, 2008

Jumbo Goodness

On Sunday I had a massive brunch consisting of spring rolls, eggs benedict, sushi, crab, beef steaks, mozzarella, curry, prawns, cheesecake, ice cream and topped off with a bloated sick feeling.

This came as a result of my visit to the famous Jumbo floating restaurant which does not float but actually sits on concrete in the middle of the water. I was slightly let down when i learnt this.

There was quite a few of us who went for brunch, but Nikki and I turned up first. This made me happy because I hate being late for anything. Nikki had been out the night before and had not slept, so she did not appreciate the food on quite the same level as we did, she also did not appreciate me making her rush to arrive on time. Especially when everyone else was late. Below you can see her looking all lonely at the end of the table before everyone arrived.

But soon the table was full

We also had unlimited drink during the brunch so it made sense to get very drunk.

In other news I have some friends visiting this week who I worked with in America. It is fantastic showing them around and will throw some pictures up here as soon as I get them. I have been giving them lots of tourist things to do.


Winter is here

Winter today has hit Hong Kong.

Winter in Hong Kong is not really winter by any normal standard. The temperature today is 19c, the sun is shining and there is not a cloud in the sky. What makes this winter though is that there is now a slight breeze and the humidity level has dropped to 23%.

This is a very big deal as It means that people in Hong Kong can now begin to look like Arctic explorers. Today I have seen people wearing coats, extra jumpers and even one weirdo wearing gloves.

It also means that people walk faster, which I always forget till I'm overtaken on foot by a grumbling grandmother. On the way back home today I felt like I was racing with a pack of crazed people in suits. I employed dirty tactics such as fake coughing loudly to get other people to disperse from round me. Everyone being paranoid about sickness can sometimes work to your advantage.

I'm sure it is not winters fault, but I also have a new neighbour who I managed to insult in spectacular fashion. She has moved in across the hall and rang my doorbell at 9am on Sunday morning to introduce herself. In my defence, the only people who ring my doorbell before 9am or after 9pm are annoying salespeople trying to sell me TV packages. I looked through the spyhole and she was carrying papers with her, so I opened the door, witnessed the usual shock that I was not Chinese, listened to her mumble something then said "I'm sorry, I'm not Chinese, try next door," and closed the door.

Amoment too late I realized that she was not dressed like a salesperson, looked through the spyhole, and saw her go into the flat opposite and close the door.

Hopefully I will undo this bad start with a nicely worded Christmas card.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Hot and Cold

I have Tonsillitis again!

I went to the doctors today and am now on antibiotics. This caused me to go to the shop, stock up on Ribena, water, bread and ice-cream then retreat to my flat. Nikki has gone to the beach, which is quite a good idea seeing as the whole place is now a contamination site.

Other exciting news is that my air-conditioner has recently been fixed after being broken for 3 weeks. I was not really bothered too much when it was broken because I like to sleep in the warmth, but Nikki likes the cold. To compensate for this we have placed the remote control for the aircon between us on a chair (Nikki is sleeping on a matress on the floor). We now have continuous battles when we wake up in the night and turn it on or off though. I think I will blame the tonsillitis on her and the aircon :)

Anyway, time for me to go back to sleep!


Saturday, November 1, 2008

A serious event in Hong Kong

It is now 1am On November the 2nd, and I am watching TV with Nikki. She is staying with me for a week and then will travel to a different friends floor for a further week. This is a cycle that will continue till she can move back into her flat at the start of December. It's quite nice to have her back, so I don't mind having her. Plus I am basically providing a charitable service to a homeless person, so i'm sure good karma will result.

Halloween 2008 has now been and gone in Hong Kong. It is an event that is taken very seriously here and is one of the best nights of the year. My theory is that generally people in Hong Kong are quite uptight, the community consists of bankers and lawyers and a largely conservative local Chinese base. So on Halloween everyone seems to take advantage of an excuse to have fun on a large scale.

Whilst mentioning bankers, it was a banker friend of mine called Matt who offered to host a Halloween party at his flat. However, during the organizing of the event it became apparent that we might be inviting too many people, and needed a larger space. It was at this point that someone who knew Matt offered his flat as an alternative venue, which Matt explained as being 'quite a large place'.

Well large does not describe it. When I walked into the flat my mouth almost hit the floor, the place was massive on almost a ridiculous scale. It was possibly larger than my family house in England, but it was in the mid-levels of Hong Kong. A very exclusive area. I could not begin to put a price on the place but it was clear that the owner must have a great deal of money. Walking around the flat you could see some pictures the owner was displaying on electronic photo frames. At first they all looked like normal family pictures, they contained relaxed settings and images of children and a man who I later discovered to be the owner of the flat. Except that when you looked closer, you could see that there were additional guests in the photos. Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, George Bush Senior, the Chinese presidents and various other dignitaries all featured in the family shots. This guy was clearly well connected.

However, whilst the owner of the flat did seem to have an abundance of money and power, he thankfully did not seem to have an abundance of character or manners. This was something that the rest of the guests at the party did have, so I left the venue not feeling the slightest bit jealous.

And now, onto the pictures.


ps I am aware I look pretty much the same as I did last year, my original plan was going to go as dead Steve Irwin but I was told that this would be insensitive.

pps I am trying something new with my pictures, if you can't view them you need to download software called flash player. Let me know if you can't see them