Ben in Hong Kong©

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fire! Fire!

At 6.00 am this morning my alarm went off on my mobile phone. I hit snooze three times and was in a peaceful little snooze world curled up under my bed covers.

Then at 6.30 am I was thrown out of my bed, heart beating very fast and a loud ringing in my ears. Panic hit as I realized the noise that had scared me was the fire alarm in my building. It was the first time in two years that I had ever heard it.

I quickly threw on my clothes, closed all my windows and grabbed the following

  • Wallet
  • Keys
  • Camera

I forgot my phone in my room, which in a future possible inferno situation I should remember to bring with me. I am also still puzzled that my camera was a possession that I felt I could not live without.

I opened my door and the entire corridor was filled with water and the alarm bell was even louder. The water was dripping from the firehose in my corridor, it seems they switch on automatically when the alarm goes off.

I got to the stairwell and began my journey downwards from the tenth floor, water dripping down the stairs like a weak waterfall. I was on the street outside my flat in less than four minutes from the moment the alarm sounded. Soon the other 3 western people who live in my building joined me and we walked around looking for smoke.

We spotted no smoke. No other people exited my building.

After 15 minutes I decided that clearly the alarm was false because no Chinese people in my building had joined us outside. I ventured back upstairs to my floor and knocked on my neighbours door.

My neighbour is Chinese, but speaks good English. He opened the door and I shouted over the alarm.

"Is this a false alarm?"

"I'm not sure" he replied

"Has there been a sign written in Chinese saying they were testing the alarms"?

"I don' t think so" he replied

"Are you concerned there could be a fire"?

"No, I do not smell any smoke".

I'm not kidding, not one Chinese person in the building was even slightly concerned by the fire alarm. I arrived in my office this morning and asked my Chinese boss if Chinese people are secretly immune to fire. She said they were not, and that I did the right thing by exiting the building so quickly.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Road works

I wanted to have an early night last night so was in bed by about 10pm. At 9.45 pm road works had begun outside my building and were so loud the building was shaking.

Being patient and British I decided to wait and see if the drilling and hammering would stop. By 10.45pm there was no sign of this happening though so I got dressed and went downstairs.

I found the guy who was in charge of the operation and I shouted over the drilling that I was trying to sleep and can they please stop drilling. The foreman looked at me and shrugged, then walked away.

Not being at all amused I then went back to my flat, grabbed my camera and returned downstairs in a far more angry state than I had been before. The good thing about Hong Kong is that the police are everywhere and it took me all of two minutes to find a policeman and make my complaint about the drilling. It turns out the policeman had already been contacted about the noise and so the combination of policeman and angry western guy taking photos and videos of the workmen made them stop pretty damn quick. Tossers.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Rain is coming

Typhoon season is fast approaching and Hong Kong is due to be hit by around 5 - 7 typhoons this summer according to the weather experts. The typhoon grading system has changed slightly so we now have either a typhoon, a strong typhoon or a super typhoon. I think calling the strongest possible level of death causing weather "super" is a little strange as it can be read two different ways.

So before the unpredictable weather hits I am trying to take advantage by going on some hikes and camping trips etc. The picture above was taken on my hike over the Wan Chai mountain last week and I have two camping trips planned over the next two weekends which should be cool.

My weekend so far has been event filled. I visited my physiotherapist who is making some serious improvements to my bad back on Saturday morning and had sushi for lunch with a friend. I then took part in the company "scavenger hunt", which involved rushing round Hong Kong looking for clues and completing tasks. One of the tasks was to lay on a bed in Ikea with my entire team and have someone take a picture of us, which got strange looks. Saturday night I went to a very famous restaurant that serves Peking duck, there were 8 of us there and we consumed three ducks with pancakes and it was seriously tasty stuff.

It's now Sunday morning and the plan is to go for a run then cook my lunch for the following week at work. Later today I am going to a house party where you have to bring a type of Cheese. Im going for some smelly cheese.


Monday, March 16, 2009

A mix of things

I have been to see my friends perform in their band "Kowloon City Strike Force" for the third time this weekend. They are getting better with each show, which is good. The lead singer is going to cause himself serious throat damage though unless he goes to singing lessons of some sort, because he sings so loudly. The general feeling in the crowd seemed to be that he was really out of tune too, but I think that is because the band is too loud for him to hear himself sing, if that makes sense.

Watching the band perform though was only the middle part of my evening. Previously I was at a house party which was largely full of people I did not know. I seemed to overcompensate for this by a wholehearted involvement in drinking games and combined it with forgetting to consume any dinner. Earlier that day I had also been on a hike from Wan Chai to Aberdeen, walking over the mountain and becoming dehydrated in the Hong Kong sun.

So by the time I saw my friends play in their band I had no issue shouting full and vocal support at them, along with what could well have been a more subtle and quiet criticism of the lead singer. I then ended my evening returning to the houseparty, then to a club, then to another club and then home. Then to the bathroom, then bed, then bathroom, then bed, in a loop that lasted till Monday evening.

I am now not drinking till the end of the month. I have also learnt a very valuable lesson that I will take with me for the rest of my life.

Always make sure no one is recording a video of your friends in their band when you are drunk and loudly commentating on the lead singer.

On a more friendly note, look at a picture of me dressed as Father Christmas!


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Friday night with style

On Friday during the daytime I spilt my lunch down my shirt, dropped a cup of water on my desk and broke my computer keyboard. I then went home and my key could no longer open my flat, so I had to call a locksmith. I then later slipped and fell whilst getting out of my shower.
Considering all this you would have thought that I might reconsider going gambling to Macau last night. But I did not, the theory being that with so much bad luck, I had to have something going for me in Macau.
When we arrived in Macau we got our passports stamped and headed straight to the best Casino in town. The Venetian.

Nikki and Laura had never been there before so it was a new experience for them. We did not go straight to the gaming tables though, instead we decided to ease ourselves into the evening by having a drink and watching the live music at the Bellini Lounge.

Then it was time to spend our money. I went straight to the Roulette tables, cashing in 200 HKD for chips and sitting myself down next to an old lady wearing big diamonds and betting big money. What is great about a Casino is the free drinks they provide if you are betting. The idea behind it is that you get drunk and spend more money, though with a little self control you can get your moneys worth of free drink by only making small regular bets.

I turned my 200 HKD into 500 HKD then lost it all. Which is fine because I had been at the table for ages and it was money that I had already decided I could afford to lose. We then went for a walk around the indoor canal area upstairs in the Casino. And the drink had clearly started having an effect.

After that we hit the electronic gambling machines, and I managed to make 20 HKD last me another few free drinks and actually won enough cash to go for dinner at 3am in the posh Chinese dim sum place they had in the center of the casino. After some very tasty food we returned to the Bellini lounge for a while before returning to do some gambling.

I won some money and then lost some, then won some again in a never ending circle.

And so by around 4.30 am we decided to call it a night in Macau. The entire evening of music watching, gambling, chinese food eating, drinking and travel had cost me 600 Hong Kong Dollars. Which is not bad considering the ferry is 300 HKD return in itself.
So I left Macau feeling quite lucky indeed, having had a good night and lots of fun.
I returned to Wan Chai at sunrise and found the entire district shrouded in smoke. A fire was burning in a building up the street and the smell of smouldering plastic and household material was swirling and clouding the streets. My widows in my flat had been left open, and my bad luck had returned.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Rush hour in Hong Kong is an experience like no other. Whether it is the "soothing" music that is played to try and calm you down or the endless shoulder barging you receive, there really is nothing quite like it.

One aspect that always has me shaking my head in amusement is the 'runners' on the underground train. There is a transfer station between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon which requires you to exit one train then cross a 70 meter space to board the next train.

Just before you arrive at this transfer station everyone is calm and composed. Reading books, listening to music or chatting on the phone.

Then the doors open. And 30% of the passengers go mental.

They throw their hands in the air, they wave and scream like banshees and run as if their pants are on fire across the 70 meter space between the two train platforms. I swear I have seen children slip and fall and parents briefly consider leaving the child rather than miss the train. It's modern natures way of factoring out the runt of the litter.

Another common sight is to see men throw their heads downwards and run across the platform in a battering ram style. Old ladies on deaths door for thirty seconds are suddenly reborn, able to walk straight and dash across to the next train with the speed of a teenager.

If this was not enough craziness to witness, even more amazing is the following.

  1. The 'runners' do it whether there is a train pulling into the platform opposite or not.
  2. There are trains every 2 minutes during rush hour.

I am going to video the crossing sometime soon just to show you.

B x