Inconsistently crappy since 2003

Browsing Posts published in May, 2009

Almost forgot about this. This was the best customs poster I saw during my last trip. No, probably ever. It’s from the Hong Kong Food and Environmental Hygiene Department warning about fines for smuggling raw meat and vegetables across the border. Or something like that (I can’t read Chinese).

I don’t know what’s better, the fact that the old woman has a giant flannel bag full of raw chickens, or her bright velvet Rick James pants.

Poster from the HK Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

bj Action

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It seems like ever since I got back from my trip I’ve been pretty busy. My first day back in Japan I think I slept over 12 hours, probably recovering from the lack of sleep and ton of walking I did over in China. Friday night since Duy’s been in Japan for vacation we took a group out to Y’s, which was weird because we had a lot of old IES alumni and Shin-san even showed up. On Saturday I went out to Chiba Park again with Andy and Brian to play frisbee and hang out. Had a bigger group this time so that was pretty cool. Hit up Kappa after it started getting dark and pigged out on cheap sushi.

On Sunday I went to Ariake Coliseum for the first time to see the Japanese pro basketball championships. Bryan was able to swing tickets for this – and I am not joking about the name – the bj League Final Four. Yes. The professional basketball conference here is called Basketball Japan, or bj for short.

bj Harmony

I showed up for the second half of the 3rd place game, which was Osaka vs Hamamatsu. It was strange to be watching a professional basketball in Japan, since half of the players were Americans. The crowd wasn’t super into it, but it was still a fun time. The final game was much better and much more exciting, and the crowd was actually going nuts the whole time. The final was between the Tokyo Apache and the (Okinawa) Ryukyu Kings. The head coach for the Apache is Kobe Bryant’s dad, and the star of the Kings is Jeff Newton, who used to play at IU, so that was kind of cool. I think Nick Roberts is also in love with him.

プロバスケットボール bjリーグ

Even though the Kings never lost the lead the entire game, it was still sweet to watch and even though our seats weren’t super close or anything they were still really good seats. I think venues in Japan are just small compared to ones in the US, so it seems like you always have better seats than you would back home. The Kings won the championship 89-82. What a great bj day.

is it immature to laugh at this?  too bad.

HK Trip – double thumbs up

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One final post about the Hong Kong/Macau/China trip (probably). I think I covered all the major stuff I did in the overly long entries I wrote before this one. It was a great trip and I definitely want to go back again sometime. I think getting a group of people to go one day would be ideal, since we can just order ridiculous amounts of food and all only pay a few bucks.

Thinking back to HK, I think the subways and trains over there and even in China might rival if not beat the Japanese ones. If there are any Japanese people reading this right now I’m sure they’re thinking to themselves “that’s impossible” but it’s pretty true. HK’s trains seemed cleaner, bigger, and smoother. Sure HK has a lot less area to cover than say, JR East, but I was still really happy with it. I don’t think I ever waited for any train more than 4 or 5 minutes. The only negative is that there are no luggage racks up top in the cars, which doesn’t make sense. There are LCD screens inside the cars that show of course loads of advertisements but also some other programming. Japanese trains pretty much have only weather and stuff, but the train in China had an America’s Funniest Home Videos-type show on that was pretty funny because the category was “animals attacking men below he belt.”

Cell phone etiquette is also totally diferent from Japan. Whereas pretty much everyone in Japan follows the rules of putting their phones on silent or vibrate in public places, HK seems to be the complete opposite. I can’t read much Chinese, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were signs in the trains saying “Please turn your phone’s ringer ALL THE WAY UP.” There was an almost constant barrage of C-Pop MP3 ringtones anywhere you go, with people always picking up their phones and starting conversations (WEI!) wherever they are, yelling enthusiastically into their handsets. This is probably because the average Cantonese conversation is the same decibel and excitement level as a Japanese person trapped in a burning building full of children. In Japan on the train if someone gets a call you see them cupping their phones to their head as if it were a severed ear, whispering quietly, ashamed that their silent conversation might be inconveniencing someone else.

OK I think that’s everything about the HK trip for now. I need to get to bed.

World Tour 2009

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Let me share with you some pictures from my most recent travels:
Window of the World
I saw the Pyramids, the Statue of Liberty, that Jesus statue, the Coliseum, Niagara Falls, the Taj Mahal, Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, Easter Island, Angkor Wat, the Grand Canyon, Stonehenge, and a bunch of other famous world landmarks. Pretty impressive, right?

Well it would be, if this wasn’t all in the same afternoon in some theme park in Shenzhen, China.

Last Monday I took the East Rail from Hong Kong up to the border into China to check things out. Ari told me about this park called Window of the World that has replicas of most of the world monuments and landmarks all crammed into one park. A lot of the replicas are just small models, but there are some pretty big ones. Eiffel Tower I think was one of the largest, since it’s kind of like the park mascot. The park was cheesy as hell but still a pretty cool way to spend an afternoon. I only had one day in China and wanted to do some shopping in the evening so I kind of did a quick tour of the park in one afternoon. I got to see almost everything I think.


After walking around in the sun seeing replicas of all the landmarks of the world in one day, I headed back to the station near the border where there is a giant shopping center similar to Ya Show in Beijing, full of small shops selling bootleg and fake stuff. It’s called Luoho and it’s this giant building immediately in front of you after leaving the station into Shenzhen. I didn’t buy too much this time, some DVDs, some shirts, and a pair of shoes. Like Ya Show you have to bargain with everyone, which is half the fun right there. I got the fake shoes I bought down from 400 RMB to less than 100. The guy also offered me one of his sisters to take as my wife for free but I just wanted the shoes. Food in China is also even cheaper than Hong Kong I think – I had BBQ pork for dinner and it was like 3 or 4 bucks US.

Casino War

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Last Sunday I decided against just walking around aimlessly in Hong Kong (which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad idea) and decided to take the ferry out to Macau. Macau is technically a separate “special administrative region of China,” meaning that I’d need to bring my passport to go through customs. That worked for me, since my Passport is filling up fast and I want to get some new pages added soon anyway.

After taking the hotel’s free shuttle to the general vicinity of the China Ferry pier, I still ended up wandering for about 45 minutes trying to find the right pier. I asked someone and their answer was “go to the shiny gold building,” which made me think I was actually trapped in some kind of weird video game. Anyway after a detour through a pretty nice mall and eating Chinese-style curry for lunch, I arrived at the golden pier and hopped a boat to Macau. The guy I asked was apparently not lying. The ferry only takes about an hour, and the ride was really nice. I think I slept most of the way.

Gold building
Of course the gold building is the boat to casino island.

Arriving in Macau doesn’t feel like you’re in a different country from Hong Kong at all. It looks pretty much the same, but they have their own currency. However this currency is pretty useless if you’re only going to the casinos like I did, since all the games are played in Hong Kong dollars. Macau is a really old Portugese colony and has a lot of historical sights and stuff, but I spent most of my afternoon at the Sands Casino, which is yet another huge shiny gold building. The inside was pretty similar to what I remember from Las Vegas, only without the cigar smoke and free alcohol. Also 90% of the people were Chinese/Asian, and 90% of those people were senior citizens. I put a limit on myself for the day’s gambling from the get-go, and was actually doing pretty good at one point playing roulette and $100 HKD a hand blackjack. And of course I lost most of that by the evening.

The games were pretty much what I expected, but baccarat seemed to be predominant. Also sic-bo and some dice game that I have no idea about. There was also War, as in the card game played by kids who can’t play real card games. Except in the casino the minimum bet is $100. There were also dancers on the bar most of the time (wearing clothes of course), but during breaks they were playing a BoA DVD. It felt weird to be sitting in China listening to a Korean girl sing in Japanese. Quick note: the McDonald’s inside Sands sells Egg McMuffins at any time of day, which is amazing. The HK ones do too, but this was where I made the discovery initially.

I started and ended my Macau trip at Sands, but in between I also walked around the Fisherman’s Wharf area there, which was mostly tourist traps but with some cool buildings. There was an old-style Chinese castle, a volcano, some funky stone gates, and a bunch of Babylonian architecture that was part of another casino. The volcano had an arcade in the basement that was dirt cheap so I played some Street Fighter there in the wrong aspect ratio. I felt like I was in high school through since you have to buy tokens to use any of the arcade machines. (Exhilarama in Crestwood Mall was pretty cool the first few years.) I also went over to the Golden Dragon casino, which is super local with almost no English signs or instructions anywhere, and almost exclusively baccarat. Also I’m pretty sure that everything in the building above the 5th floor was some form of brothel. Karaoke in China (KTV) is not the same as karaoke in Japan.

Sands Casino

After getting the 9:30PM boat back to Hong Kong, I checked into my second hotel (cheaper and more stuff in the area). It was pretty late so I just went to Temple Street and got some awesome food at a street restaurant. Beef chow fun (乾炒牛河) might be one of my favorite noodle dishes ever. Also this whole big plate cost me like USD $3.

I can never get food like this in Japan

Up, up, and away


Saturday in Hong Kong I woke up early to go do some sightseeing with Sunny. I was staying on the Kowloon side, so I had to take the Star Ferry to the Hong Kong side, then from there I took another ferry to Lantau Island. I don’t think I’ve ridden on a boat in a while so it was pretty cool. The first one was only about 5 minutes, then the second was about a half hour.

Ferry in 香港

After getting to Discovery Bay, met up with Sunny and her boyfriend at the pier and we got dim sum at some restaurant overlooking the beach. If memory serves me right, the place was named FAGORA or something funny like that. They had good chicken feet. DB was a pretty cool place, like a little resort town with a lot of expats and higher-end residents. We sat on the patio facing the bay, and it looked more like Hawaii or some tropical island; pretty different from where I was in Kowloon the day before where it seems to not be a requirement to wear shoes, but it was a definite rule that you have to spit on the sidewalk a lot.

Discovery bay

I just realized that these Hong Kong blogs might have a lot of pictures. Oh well.

After brunch we took a bus to Tung Chung, where we were going to take the “cable car” up to the area where the Big Buddha statue was. For some reason I was expecting like a trolley that you’d see in San Fransisco: a slow crawl up a hill with a lot of old ladies all humming the Rice-a-Roni theme song. No. Instead I see a long cable going up a tall-ass mountain with little metal and glass cars speeding along it. Holy crap. So we ended up taking this 25-minute cable car in the sky up the mountain to the area with a tourist village, a monastery, and of course the giant Buddha statue. The cable car is called the Ngong Ping 360, since the cars are made of glass and you can look out from every angle. Of course, the key direction to pay attention to is down, since if you’re looking down and it seems to be coming very fast towards you, then you’re falling and you will soon die. Luckily every time I looked down the ground was staying about the same level vertically, and I did not plummet to my death. Luckily.

Cable car up the mountain

The above pretty much sums up my feelings during the ride. OK so I’m exaggerating a little bit; it wasn’t that bad.

No, actually it was pretty terrifying, especially with the wind blasting the little car the entire way in every possible direction. But let’s move on, shall we?

Once we got off the little hamster cage cable car, we were in Ngong Ping village, supposedly set up like a traditional village but was really a tourist trap with a lot of gift shops and little restaurants. There was even a very traditional Chinese Starbucks. Our cable car tickets included two little activities, both related to Buddha and both cartoons. It was nice to take a break from walking in the sun though. Finally we got up close to the main attraction: a giant Buddha statue that was visible from the cable car earlier, but looked a lot bigger in person. According to wikipedia, it’s 110 feet tall.

Tian Tan Buddha

Sure it’s impressive, but it does feel a bit cheap knowing that it’s only been around since 1993.

On the way back down from checking out Big Buddha we got some herbal jelly made with tortoise in the village (which was actually not bad, and supposedly good for you), then headed back to Central to get dinner. Had a TON of food, which was all awesome. Spicy crab in a mountain of fried garlic, a steamed whole grouper, squid, tofu, fried rice, and red bean soup. It was an awesome touristy day overall.

No more cable cars though, please.

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