2006.02.11 Hong Kong

Yueyang Tower, Lei Tak Seng
Yueyang Tower
Lei Tak Seng
After one final week at Bonnie and Matthew's place, it's time to leave Hong Kong. I'm scheduled for an afternoon flight from the border city of Shenzhen: it's considerably cheaper to take a domestic flight from Shenzhen than to fly from the Hong Kong airport. I plan to stay at Joyce's place in Beijing for a few days, then make my way out to Urumqi.

It's been a full week. From Zhuhai, I walked across the border into Macao. I had planned on staying the night there, then taking a ferry to Hong Kong the next day. I hadn't taken into account that Chinese New Year would continue to be celebrated that weekend, filling up hotel rooms. Even the lowest-end of accommodation multiplied their rates four-fold: my visit to Macao wound up as a long day-trip.

I wandered around the former colony most of the day, walking from the border with China all the way down to the tip of the peninsula. Macao is a great place to stroll aimlessly: there are many historic sites from its days as a Portuguese colony. I chanced by a small museum presenting the XXII Collective Exhibition of Macau Artists and was taken by its calligraphy section. I particularly liked the work of local artist Lei Tak Seng, whose Yueyang Tower is pictured atop this page.

Macao is full of casinos, I decided to check out the action at the Landmark Hotel. I have played blackjack on previous trips to Macao, though decided that this time I would just watch.

Blackjack is played in Macao with rules different than I've observed elsewhere. One of the odder rules I've found is that an observer can place a bet, laying chips on the felt into the same betting circle felt where the player places them. That would certainly be against the rules in Vegas.

Local gamblers play with other quirks. The word for "picture" in Cantonese is goong, so on hands when a player is hoping to be dealt a face-card, they'll often yell out, "Goong!" just as the card is being flipped over. It's clear which table is hoping their dealer will bust when a simultaneous roar of "Goong!" erupts from across the casino.

This week in Hong Kong has been busy. Spending time with father and uncles largely revolves around seeing relatives over meals. I've met many relatives whom I know well from previous visits--mostly cousins of my father. There are quite a few faces new to me as well. People whom I may have previously heard referred to along the lines of, "#9-Auntie-Rose's-daughter-'Kitty'" now have faces and personalities I can connect with.

I hope to keep in better contact with more of the family back here. Some of these folks are pretty cool.

Gathering with Relatives

Meeting new people is amusing. When I tell people where I live, they don't seem the least bit surprised. Given that my relatives have been scattered for several generations around China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Taiwan, and the U.S., my living in China comes as no surprise. However, people are always confused when I mention that I live out in Xinjiang Province. Aunt Kitty's jaw actually dropped when I told her I live in Xinjiang. Xinjiang is considered remote and backwards, carrying a connotation similar to that "Siberia" might to a westerner.

When not socializing with relatives over a meal, I've been spending lots of time with Bonnie and Matthew. They've become regulars with an informal group of Ultimate players, the Hong Kong Ultimate Frisbee Players Association. I joined in on a game last Sunday and found it quite different from the "everybody-goes-out-for-a-pass" action we gathered for up in Urumqi. It was intimidating at first to try to follow plays, understand the concept of a "stack" and keep up with people who played the game regularly. By the end of the game, I felt I'd managed well enough, assisting on a few plays and scoring a point, myself.

Aside from all that, I've spent a fair amount of time watching TV over this visit. Bonnie and Matthew have gotten me hooked on the television series Lost. I plowed through their DVD set of the first season. At 40 minutes per episode, multiplied by 25 episodes, I believe that's a good fifteen hours I've spent in front of the tube. It was good to thoroughly veg out on American TV--I'll be far-removed from it in back in Xinjiang over this year. I suppose if I am truly addicted to the series, I can always download future episodes.