|On display at Incheon Intl Airport. I don't know what it is, but it seems resourceful if nothing else.|
So our lovely - but brief - trip to Hong Kong is over, and the Asia Vu family is back in Seoul, which thoughtfully produced several centimeters of snow while we were gone just so we would be sure to know exactly who we were dealing with when we emerged from the plane.
Between the three of us, we probably got some pretty good photos, but at the moment all of our memory cards are scattered hither and yon (not to mention Son#2 downloads all of his in some 'professional' format that my computer can't even read) so I can't show you anything right now except the blurry stuff I took on the fly with my phone.
Since most of what I took with the phone was obnoxious, obscure, and had very little to do with the natural beauty or rich history of Hong Kong and environs, you can probably imagine just what kind of a post this one will be.
I plan to write a series of proper trip review posts in the next day or two, but at the moment, you'll have to settle - as I said - for the sort of stuff that
|No, I don't know what those two rounded glass things are in the foreground, nor do I know where they were discovered.|
- Asian airports like to display contraband items that people have tried to smuggle onto airplanes: (It's entirely possible they do this in the US and Europe, too, but I've never seen any displays there.) In both the Seoul and Hong Kong airports, we were treated to some truly fascinating display cases that showcased not only the lengths to which people will go to smuggle items into foreign countries, but also the sorts of things that people find smuggle-worthy. I'm not even going to mention the pedestrian stuff like explosives and firearms, which we all know about. It's the really unusual contraband that fascinated me: for example, I had no idea that dried seahorses and bile powder were so valuable they were worth risking time in a Korean jail for, but then, I've led a sheltered life. Other contraband items included monitor lizard skins(right; not the actual lizards), raw meat(Son#2 and I initially thought this was a kidney), sea horses, and (my favorite) a lunchbox-sized turtle(how do you even begin to hide this?) The displays included not only the actual goods, but also (in some cases) the methods by which they were being smuggled, which were testimonies to the ingenuity of the human mind as well as the elasticity of our many orifices.
|Where would you even hide this?|
- Luxury seating does not spare you from the coarse realities of humanity. On our first day in Hong Kong, we made the hour-long trip by boat to Macau. Because it was a holiday weekend (and we had been warned - thanks, Heather!) we had prudently purchased tickets online ahead of time and even paid the extra money (only about $15US each) to upgrade to 'Super' class - although we had no idea what 'Super' class entailed. As it turned out, 'Super' class means you sit on the upper deck (it's all inside anyway, with big viewing windows) with bigger, cushier seats, a steward to tend to your needs, and a complimentary snack. In our case, there was only one other person (in a cabin that seated about 75 people) in the section besides us, but the crowds in 'ordinary' class were fairly heavy, so we were happy with our choice. The crossing - we felt - was rough (it was misty and breezy that day) and we all were relieved to get off the boat when it arrived.
|Our very own Super-class steward(ess.)|
|Choppy waves and rain on the way to Macau.|
- As it turned out, though, the crossing that we had found 'rough' turned out to be nothing compared to the return trip at 8 that evening, when we found ourselves in a slightly more heavily-populated cabin and far rougher weather. The steward made a 'rough seas' announcement and apologized for our anticipated late arrival, after which MrL and our friend LC immediately fell asleep, leaving Son#2 and myself wide awake to pitch and toss our way to the mainland, vicariously experiencing the misery of seasickness via our fellow travelers, who made quite a lot of violent retching sounds and a lot of miserable-looking trips back to the lavatory carrying their used seasickness bags (thoughtfully provided by the management for just such an occasion.) Thanks again to advice from Heather, we'd all brought our earbuds/iPods/Phones and all of us plugged in and turned up the volume to drown out the chorus of human misery - but only to a certain extent. I probably do not need to point out that Son#2 (who was unfortunate enough to be in the lavatory with no handrails during a particularly rough patch ) and I experienced the trip as 'traumatic' wheras MrL and LC found it 'restful' and declared themselves refreshed by their hour-long nap.
|I took this shot of the seasickness bags on the trip over, little realizing that I'd see them in use that very evening.|
- Different societies, different issues. In the US, we try to keep people from smoking and doing drugs in public bathrooms. This seems fairly tame in comparison.
- If you are going to travel in Asia at Lunar New Year, it is helpful (but not necessary) to have lived there for a while. Having lived in Seoul for going on 2 years now, we felt very comfortable in Hong Kong. Granted, the language that we didn't understand was Chinese instead of Korean, but other than that, the vibe was very similar: big bustling high-tech Asian city with lots of people in it and not very much space. We understood how crowds worked, how people push and don't think a thing of it, and how, when you're living in a country where space is at a premium, you can't expect to have the same sort of personal envelope that you'd have back home. As a result, when we joined the 80,000 or so other people who'd come to watch the Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Night Parade on the streets of Kowloon on Sunday evening, we were confident navigating our way through wall-to-wall people, and felt we gave as good as we got in the elbowing department, although I heard more than one outraged comment from Western tourists in our group as we made our way through the throngs to our seats. MrL did his bit for public education and cultural understanding, though, and I was proud to hear him earnestly explaining to an outraged group of Westerners that what they interpreted as a 'lack of common manners and decency' was simply local custom: nothing personal and not meant to be in the least bit aggressive or bullying, no matter how egregious it seemed.