A Three Day Weekend

What it was all about.
We are two days into a three day weekend. Friday was a public holiday celebrating the Mid-Autumn full moon. The big party is on Thursday evening, and we headed to Victoria Park to join the festivities. But we were probably too early and nothing really happened. A lot of people were milling around, that's about all.
Mid-Autumn Festivities in Victoria Park

 Later that night, we stumbled upon a gastro pub advertising more than ninety different beers. Sounds like a place for us! And it was. More than decent food, and an impressive list of beer. Even a couple of Nordic beers: Mikkeller, Nögne, and Grythyttan! The latter is surprising, as it'is hard to find even in Sweden.
Oatmeal Stout: Mats was happy!

Friday we thought we'd go to Stanley on the south coast of Hong Kong Island. And so did most others do, too. The bus queue looked pretty bad, but since the buses arrived more or less continuously, it took just ten minutes to board. Unfortunately, not all heading to Stanley did so by bus. It took us forty five minutes to get to Stanley...
Half the bus queue
The Stanley Market is a street market, but not only with the usual touristy crap. There are a lot of stalls with high quality shops selling clothes by their own design, handicraft and so on. Last time we were in Stanley, two years ago, Yvonne bought half a shop of linen clothes.
Inside the maze
We had dinner at a great little Indian restaurant, Curry Tiffin, before heading home again.

Curry Tiffin in Stanley
Saturday we decided to go to IKEA here in Causeway Bay. It was really interesting to see how different it was, at the same time as it was undoubtedly IKEA. The differences were in the size of the furnished "rooms" where they show how one could use their products.

These rooms were tiny and they had their respective sizes displayed.

But of course the rooms here are smaller. The display rooms at IKEA in Sweden are the size of an decent apartment here.

A product you don't see at IKEA in Sweden.
(The name ALLÄTARE translates to omnivore.)
We needed nourishment after IKEA and went to SOGO for High Tea. Not as good as in York, but still...

High Tea at SOGO
Tomorrow Hong Kong will be hit by a severe typhoon. Interesting.


On Public Transportation Fares

We have been complaining about the Stockholm public transportation fares. It's a very stupid system they have implemented there. But it's consistent.

In Hong Kong it's not.

There are six different types of public transportation here:

  • MTR - the subway
    Nine lines, very long train sets, stations spread out. Built for mass transport, and very good at it.
  • City buses
    Mostly double-decked, frequent, stops are often far between.
  • Mini-buses
    All over the place! Small buses, capacity just 16, scuttles around almost non-stop.
  • Tram
    100+ years old trams, frequent, a lot of stops.
  • Light rail
    Used far out in Tuen Mun. Only read about them so far. Will be ignore for now.
  • Star Ferry
    Across the harbor.
Of the five we care about right now, there are no less than four different ways of calculating and charging the fares!
  • On MTR, you check in and out and get the fare calculated on how far you actually have traveled.
  • On buses, both big and small, you check in and pay a fare that depends on how far into the bus' route you get on the bus.  Same price, no matter how many stops you travel.
  • On the tram, you check out when leaving, paying a flat rate (HK$2.30).
  • The Star Ferry charges you before boarding, flat rates. On the upper deck, the fare is slightly higher (HK$2.30).
On at least one of the subway/commuter lines, the one heading towards the Chinese border, they have first class cars. The fare is doubled for travelers in first class, and you have to check in for first class at the platform, not the turnstiles, before entering the car. 

Maybe the Stockholm system isn't so bad, after all?


Eventful Couple of Days

On Wednesday we had a date with the Immigration Authorities to apply for Hong Kong IDs. Have HK IDs is compulsory and must be applied for within 30 days of getting a long-term visa. It is also good to have when opening bank accounts and things like that.

So at a quarter to two we entered the Immigration Tower, and headed to the reception. Only to be told that we had to activate our visas first...

Our visas wasn't activate yet, as this could only be done when entering the country. And since we got here before we got the visas, we were in the country as visitors. Bummer. Nothing to do but to go back to the office and plan a trip to where-ever and to book a new appointment at the Immigration Authorities.

When looking for an appointment, they had an opening the day after. Next available time was two weeks later. We grabbed the time and started thinking about how to activate our visas in less than 24 hours.

The guys at the office told us we could get a five day visa at the Chinese border, just take the subway, walk across the border bridge, and pay a small fee, that's all!

First class railway cars to/from the border
Away we went after work. Got thoroughly confused when trying to find the right subway line to take us to the border. The reason behind the confusion was that Mats had looked at a faulty subway map on the Internet.

When at the Chinese immigration police we applied for visas. The officer asked us what we were planning on doing in Shenzen. Have dinner, we replied. Somewhat surprised, she asked again. Have dinner, we replied, again. It actually made her giggle. It is a clear victory to get an immigration officer to giggle!

It took less than five minutes to get the visas. Pretty cheap, too. Only RMB 168 pp. A warning, though: If you are an American or French citizen, it is illegal for you to even apply for a short term visa. You will be fined for trying!

The square outside the border crossing, Shangri La hotel at
other end.
When through the border, we walked across a large square filled with people re-packing tonnes of stuff they had brought with them from HK. All of it either baby formula or diapers.

We had a quite good dinner at the Shangri La hotel: Cantonese cuisine with grilled meats and stir fried prawn. The tea was the most expensive item at RMB 168.

Eventually we went back to the border, had our visas activated by a very friendly border control officer, even though we went to the wrong queue.

Thursday morning, we went back to the Immigration Tower and breezed through the process in practically no time at all. Now we have our (temporary) HK IDs. Now we can call ourselves residents!


Ups and Downs

The last few days has had its ups and downs. On Saturday, we met with friends from Thailand and Sweden for drink and dinner. We guided, they paid, an excellent arrangement!

We started at the Ozone bar, an open air bar on 118th floor on the west side of Kowloon. Expensive drinks, but a fantastic view. A clear and definitive up! It got even better when Mats got a telling off by a British couple. They shouldn't have. Soon they stormed out of the bar. They lost. :-)

Dinner followed at Din Tai Fung. It was wonderful to see the happy faces of our friends when the tasted all the tasty Dim Sum dishes.

Otherwise, Mats spent most of the weekend in bed with a cold. Indisputable a down. Sunday evening we went to the Temple Street Night market. Pretty much like most other street markets we've seen, another down. Had dinner at a small Indian restaurant, everything seemed authentic (but neither of us has been to India, so what do we know?). Decent dinner at low cost. An up.

Monday night, we went to Quarry Bay to have dinner at a gastro-pub with a good selection of beer. Never found it in the maze-like building complex and ended up at a restaurant that looked pretty upscale, both on the outside and when seeing the prices. This was our first disappointment foodwise. The boiled potatoes was served raw, the wonderful Dove sole was smothered in garlic, the steak was to rare even for Mats, the aioli was hardly made from mayonnaise and lacked garlic, the estragon Bearnaise (are there any other kind?) was bland. A major down.

Tuesday night we went to an Italian restaurant in Causeway Bay. Instead of asking when not hearing/understanding, the staff just ignored you; Yvonne got the wrong pasta dish, no beer was served until we asked where it was. Both pasta dishes where almost completely void of flavors. And on top of it all: The beer selection sucked! Maybe not as big a down as the Monday dinner, but not far from. A little compensation was the tasty sago pudding we bought from a hole in a wall.

Tomorrow we will apply for Hong Kong IDs. It will be interesting to meet face to face with Hong Kong bureaucrats!


One Week Later

Our first working week here in Hong Kong is done. Work-wise it has been what could be expected, mostly. A lot of catching up after a three week vacation, new computers to install and configure (Mats got a new desktop Windows on it, something had to be done!), brand spanking new monitors (we each got two 27", 2560x1440 monitors, we've never had that much real estate on our desks before!), new colleagues, and a new Boss (no, not Bruce!).  It has been a good week at work. We feel like we're up to speed.

The lunches has been great, partly because the food is new to us (and quite different from the Stockholm lunch offering), but mostly because it has been, without exception, well made food tasting great and at low cost.

This week we have had:

  • Japanese lunch-box, fried chicken, pickled vegetables, rice: Simple, but very tasty. HK$55 pp.
  • Hong Kong Dim Sum, the boss took our team to a welcome lunch at a Dim Sum place nearby. Too many dishes to remember, with a few exception, tripe being one, very good! Price unknown, but Dim Sum for a company of ten is often surprisingly cheap.
  • Nepalese, Yvonne had Chicken Masala, Mats had Palak Paneer. The Masala deep, rich in flavor, the Palak Paneer unusually spicy. Both excellent. HK$ 60 pp, including nan, rice, salad, tea/coffee.
  • Turkish Chicken/Beef Doner Kebab. With the hot sauce, the chicken kebab was the best I have ever had, says Mats. HK$45 pp.
  • Malaysian Laksa with chicken, fish cake, tofu, and egg noddles: Pretty mild soup, deep in flavors. HK$55 pp.
When out shopping for lunch on Friday, we found a place selling Banh Mi. Guess what we are having for lunch Monday?

Tonight, we are meeting up with the first of friends coming to Hong Kong to visit the city and us. Welcome to Honkers, Tomas and Giftzy!


First Day at Work

Vacation is over, no vacation until June 2014, except for extended weekends. It is our own choice, so I am not complaining. We want to travel around East and South East Asia as much as we can. Hence a number of micro-vacations instead of just one three week long (we have fifteen days vacation during the nine months here).

So today we got up early, and to the MTR to Central and the office. The commute is just half an hour, but it is extremely long compared to the 3½ minutes walk we have in Stockholm.

At the office we got the good news that our visa has come through! Now we are Hong Kong residents. Feel slightly strange, but very, very good.

A lot of catching up at the office, a lot of new faces, a few good old friends, too.

Bought Japanese Lunch Box, wish there are lunch boxes like that in Stockholm. A lunch box with fried chicken, pickled vegetables, and rice steamed to perfection for HKD 55.

Celebrated end of vacation + being residents with a dinner at Under the Bridge Spice Crab.

We have planned to be active after work, seeing things, going places. Not tonight, tonight we will drag ourselves to bed early. Jet lag is a b...


Mixed Experiences

Today was a day of mixed experiences.

We took the tram to North Point to take a look at the Chung Yeung Street street market. It is very hard to understand why the trams should take a detour off of King's Road to thread them between various stalls selling fish, meat, produce, and clothes. Strange, indeed!

Once there, we wanted some refreshments and dropped in on a, what we thought, iced tea shop. The lady didn't speak English, so the communication halted somewhat. She showed us a menu in English with very imaginative names. We picked one at chance sat down. In came to cups of dark tea colored, steady but gelatinous something. And a can of sugar syrup. The taste was, let us put it mildly, interesting...

It was, it turned out, something healing made from turtles and tea. We didn't finish our "tea."

In the afternoon, we started looking for SIM cards to our phones. Just buy a prepaid SIM at any 7/11, people had told us. Yeah, like sure! We have brand new ASUS Padfones with nano-SIMs. Just making the clerks understand that we need a smaller SIM than micro-SIMs proved to be a challenge. And eventually, we got the same reply everywhere: No nano-SIMs!

Today is our last day of vacation, tomorrow we start working at the Hong Kong office. Our visa hasn't come through yet, so for the time being, we are still employed at the Stockholm office.