The French street artist INVADER has come to Hong Kong several times, but this last month he came ‘officially’ as part of an organized show at the PMQ gallery. There his works hung on well lit walls with tour guides and a gift shop, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t busy again on the streets of the city. INVADER launched a new wave of art on the city streets, and my kids took an immediate liking to finding every single one of them. The other day we did a city hike through the streets of Sheung Wan and managed to locate about 7 of the 20 or so new works with several more now on the agenda for our next hike. As if that wasn’t enough, the kids are now trying to recreate as many Invader works as possible, along with a few original designs of their own. Arsenal man was a big favorite, and the boys are already asking how I can attach it to the wall. Thankfully they don’t know what grout yet, so we’ll make do with something a little less permanent. [caption id="attachment_4677" align="alignright" width="2448"] Arsenal Man in tiles.[/caption] I created a Google Doc with a location list of all INVADER work in Hong Kong that is still visible, but haven’t gotten around to finishing the map just yet. Feel free to take a look and follow the invasion around the city.]]>
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Farm Direct is a new grocery selling locally grown hydroponic food in the center of Hong Kong. Given my interest in home hydroponics and my wife’s new found interest in food safety, following some rather silly stuff going on in the mainland, I went in to check out the crops. They had a few types of lettuce and bok choy on offer, both items I’m hoping to grow in my own home setup once I get off my butt and get it running. They also had a few imported things like blue berries and tomatoes, but I decided to go only with the fresh local stuff. I’m having my first salad tonight. Will see how it goes. If you want to check it out yourself, it’s at 425 Lockhart Road, at the border of Wanchai and Causeway Bay, just behind the Wanchai Fire Station. Here’s a neat video I found about their farm in Fanling. ]]>
Peak Tram station on Barker Road when I noticed something pretty odd. The cable that pulls the tram up to Victoria Peak was pulled off the tracks and laying on the road, in big segments. Apparently this is “Spring Cleaning” week for the Peak Tram. Both carriages are in a state of repair at the stations, and the cable was hauled off and cut into smaller segments so that it could be trucked away. The cable is actually quite a few smaller cables twisted together. I counted 6 coils wrapped around one. Each of the 6 coils had 19 strands inside. Sort of puts to ease the thought of the cable snapping one day.
Michael Palin, formerly one of the Monty Python crew and now a well-known world traveller and documentarian. He was in Hong Kong to promote his friends new opening at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum and also to do a book signing. I managed to grab a few books, both Around the World in 80 Days and his recent book Brazil which I sent away as gifts. I also grabbed the Monty Python autobiography, which I had him sign to “The Dead Parrot”. He added “just resting” at the end. I then asked if he had seen the famous Nigerian Internet Scammer version of the Parrot Shop but he said he hadn’t. I told him to look it up on Youtube so maybe he’ll get around to it. Pretty nice evening. Sometimes we do get some celebrities over here in this land of finance and shipping containers. [caption id="attachment_4581" align="alignright" width="550"] Go away kid you bother me.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4579" align="alignright" width="550"] To the Dead Parrot, just resting.[/caption]]]>
Not Hong Kong.[/caption] You’re driving in a city with roads laid down by the British (i.e. redefining stupidity in urban planning) with fellow drivers who, to put it lightly, haven’t been driving all that long, and then having to rent a car from an ‘American’ company run by a bunch of Germans. Relaxing? Ha. First things first: what’s in your passport, and what is in your wallet? If you are a visitor to Hong Kong, you can rent a car on your US drivers license relatively easily. However, if you are a resident, in possession of a Hong Kong ID card, you’re going to need a Hong Kong drivers license. Renting a car has two familiar options, Hertz and Avis. But while the name and logo looks familiar, under the surface things are quite a bit different from renting in the USA. The forms are different, the concept of “collision damage waiver” non-existant, and the process far more complicated than the rather seamless operation you’ll encounter at even the smallest airport in the USA. You’ll be asked for a very large deposit, something like $15,000-$60,000HKD ($2,000-$8,000 USD), that will be placed on your credit card at the time of rental. Be sure to tell your credit card company there might be a “hold” like this placed or you won’t even get out the door. There also isn’t really the concept of a “Collision Damage Waiver”–paying a little extra each day to cover the potential for scratches, nicks, and bumps. Instead they have a deductible of about $2,000USD that you are on the hook for right off the bat. This means when you get your car, and when you return it, give it a thorough review. Looks for scratches, door dings, and other imperfections from the previous renter. Also check the rims as they often get scratched up by folks who are still learning how to park. Unfortunately, given the size of the average parking space in Hong Kong, the chances of you getting a scratch or door ding is actually pretty high. That’s an interesting point–there aren’t that many places to park on the island. Street parking is comical–essentially non-existant in many of the areas you want to visit, and parking garages, while they do exist, can be expensive and a bit of a maze. If I had to guesstimate, I’d say the average parking space gives you about 6-10 inches on either side of your car to fit in. That means no wildly throwing open the door when you arrive (something you might need to tell the kids about) as chances are you’ll be parking next to some wildly overpriced imported car. It also means you have to figure out what to do with the car overnight. You can park it in your building, if you have a space, but most of the street parking doesn’t allow overnight parking, or if it does, requires you to be up and moved by 7:00am. Before we found a spot in my building, our rental cars would go back down to Central and stay the night in the IFC building or near the United Centre, where we found overnight spots for a flat “night” rate of about $70HKD. Most places take Octopus (and only Octopus) for parking so before you do a weekend rental you might want to top up your card with a few hundred dollars. You should also put a hundred or so in coins in your car for tolls, especially if you’ll be using the tunnels. [caption id="attachment_4544" align="alignright" width="400"] You won’t find something this nice from Hong Kong rental companies.[/caption] The choice of cars is generally pretty good, with a number of recent model Japanese imports such as Toyota and Honda. There are minivans available that fit upto 7, but if you are thinking of renting one and moving a couch or a bed you’d probably be better off renting a cargo van (the Hiace). If you really are out to impress someone, you can rent some higher end Mercedes and BMWs and the like, but for the price it’s probably easier to just hire a limo / car service for your business meeting / hot date. Roads in Hong Kong were initially laid down by the British, which means, in short, it’s pretty stupid. They are narrow, poorly marked, and likely to change to one way or two way at the drop of a hat. They also drive on the wrong side, which really isn’t as much of a problem once you get used to it, but you might find yourself thinking a bit backwards when it comes to “going around the block” (a maneuver that is necessitated by dropping off people and picking them up). In the US you have this mental idea of ‘right-right-right’ and I’m back here again. But with the drivers on the wrong side it’s a left-left-left. Often times you can mis-plan things while heading down the road only to get to the end and find there is no way to cross over given the lines. On the island, there are several routes in which you can get trapped–you’ll have to drive an additional 10-20 blocks just to turn around given the lack of turn lanes and one way streets. While trying to goto Sheung Wan one day I finally found a place to turn around in Kennedy Town. Yea, it can be like that. One other point, lines. Lane discipline is strictly enforced, not just by the police but by the “rules of the road”. You’ll often see cars stopped on a road waiting to change lanes, despite open roads ahead, because at the point they are stopping it is the ‘last chance’ to change lanes without violating a solid line. While lane discipline and lines exist in the US and most people follow the rules, in big cities it’s a bit more lax than it is here. Once you do get off the island, it’s probably a good idea to have some idea of where you are going. If you want to head up to Sai Kung for example, take a look at the map and the Google street view of some of the major turns you’ll encounter. Often times the roundabouts and other exits are not marked as well as you might hope, and you’ll be coming on these at a good clip and need to decide “yes/no” in a hurry. If you do manage to get off the island, don’t forget that many places are a bit restricted for cars. Lantau is basically a no go, and some of the country parks will close off roads on the weekends for hikers. For example Monkey hill in Kowloon is a great day drive during the week, but during the weekend it gets nuts with the tourists illegally feeding the wild monkeys and them jumping all over the road. Probably better just to stay in the parking lot inside than attempt a drive down that path. Eventually you’ll return the car and go through a bit of an inspection. If they see something they’ll flag it at the return and then call you in a day or so with an (overpriced) estimate for the repair. You’ll then hail a cab that smells like whatever the driver ate for lunch and head back home, remembering you once had a car in this city but are now back in taxi/bus/MTR hell. ]]>
UPDATE: Through a little URL sniffing I found this English-sign up page. More and more I’m hearing folks ask me how do you sign up for Weibo in English, so I thought I’d make a quick little guide with the help of my translator (i.e. wife). The easiest way to do this is to download Google Chrome and get the translation extension that will translate, on the fly, any webpage. Now the English-Chinese translations are never quite perfect, in fact, they’re usually quite a bit worse than say English-Spanish or English-French, but you can get the general idea of what is going on through those plug-ins that will do the translation for you. If you don’t have Google Chrome, here is what the first two pages say when you get started with Weibo. Goto http://www.weibo.com Click the Blue button at the top right. That will take you to the details screen, where you enter the details as follows. When you click the submit button at the end, you’ll get an activation notice saying that an email has been sent your email address. Click the link there and you should be good to go. Now, as for who to follow, I’m creating a list of English-speaking Weibo users on another site. Will have that up shortly. ]]>