The travelling alone doesn't bother me in the slightest. I find it's the best way to do it, unless you find someone with similar interests. If too many of you go, it ends up turning into a piss up and you miss valuable days lying in bed nursing a hangover - "Eh, we'll see the Peak Mountains another day". The next thing you're home and have missed out on seeing places that you should of seen. With travelling alone you can also go where you want, when you want and not have to consider anyone else on the chance you decide you want to leave a place early. Though, not being a loner I'm not going to spend my entire time in China sitting in my shoebox of a room with my indian TV stations and flee-like creatures, twiddling my thumbs and reading my guide books to help me on my forthcoming legs of my journey. To gain the best advice and knowledge on places to go and things to see and do is actually talking to other travellers doing the same as what you're doing. That way you get some priceless advice while being able to chill out, meeting new people from around the world, enjoying a beer after a day of sightseeing. Only thing is that you need to find them first. Welcome to the Red Lion.
My 2nd day started off with breakfast in a Starbucks Coffee shop, enjoying a chocolate danish pastry and a Latte to suit. $28 later, travel guide in toll, I was ready to face the world and off I went in search of the Star Ferry terminal to take me to Hong Kong Island. The weather was lovely as I stripped down to my t-shirt , tying my hooded sweater around my waist. I'm not saying I'm thin or anything though I had to wrap the sleeves around my waist 4 times to prevent the cuffs scuffing along the floor behind me. The ferry ride was only a 15 minute trip across the South China Sea giving me some excellent views of the skyline as we approached the towering buildings that were now gaining in size. I spent the new few hours walking about the city, taking in the sites. To be among the people of Hong Kong was an experience in itself, just seeing them go about their daily business was so different to the English eye. Trams cruised down the main street as cars went about tooting their horns at one another. It was either to warn each other of their presence or it was a very close knit community and everyone knew each other. "There's Li", Toot-Toot, "Oh and there's Wun-Hym" Toot-Toot.... "Bloody hell, and there's Chang Siyao", giving the hand up to the window wave, though not actually moving the hand side-to-side, Toot-Toot.
After pondering on where to eat, I came across a restaurant with large display pictures behind the counter on what dishes they had to offer. Being that my Cantonese wasn't up to scratch, I thought this place would be ideal as I was an expert on finger pointing.
"I want that one", pointing up at the chicken based meal behind the ladies head.
The lady then points to confirm my choice,
She then shakes here head as if to suggest I wouldn't like it
"I don't care, I want that one", pointing skywards as if pointing for pointing sake and not paying attention,
Again continuing to shake her head, the lady points to another choice, possibly a more suited alternative.
"No, I want that one"
The lady then thumbs up confirming I definitly wanted it before I went off to the booth to collect it.
"Yeah, that one"
Shrugging her shoulders as if to admit defeat she runs it through the till, waving her finger at me as if to say that I wont like it and that I couldn't return it once purchased.
"Yeah, I know"
Handing me my ticket she points to where I collect my meal and off I went.
Two minutes later I'm back at the counter,
"I dont like it!!!!!"
(For those who are perhaphs not from Britain, that is actually a sketch from a comedy series and didn't exactly happen the way I wrote it........ I chose the beef dish)
Heading back to both Kowloon and to the point I was making regarding fellow travellers I set off in search of some kind of international bar. Maybes a british pub or a sports bars as Newcastle United were playing Manchester United in a couple of days time. That way I could get to meet some people along with getting to see the match. I had already discovered an Irish pub and remembered I'd passed a pub, The Red Lion a couple of times while wondering about. The Red Lion, a good old British pub name, and a certain to house British travellers and even more so, the match..... On leaving the subway I merged back onto the busy streets of Kowloon and was immediately called upon to fight off the touts. I continued on, picturing a nice cold pint and maybes some english grub after my episode with the chinese food earlier. I was soon brought back to reality as I was tapped on my shoulder by a Chinese girl. After hours of reading I was expecting to be approached at some point. Normally they say that they are a student and are learning English at the local college and would like to spend sometime to brush up on their english. Right on Que,
"Hello, how are you, my name is Suzi"
Smiling in acknowledgement I continuted down the street, trying not to be drawn in conversation.
"I'm on my holiday. I'm learning English. Where you go??"
"I'm just off to meet my friends"
"I be your friend, where are you staying"
"Em, just down their.", pointing in a general direction, not giving anything away, plus I would be embarrased to mention that I was staying at the Chungking Mansions.
I awaited for the motive of her coming up to me as I tried to lose her in the crowd. I hurried down the street with Suzi on my shoulder continuing to chat away. Normally they look to have a drink with you where you run up a bill that your stuck with and have to pay the local bar keeper for the overpriced drinks who happens to be in on the scam too; or they take you to some Art Show on the chance that you will buy them, again being overpriced. Either of the two I would of expected for this young Chinese women to come out with and was extremely shocked when she came out with what she did.
"Your nice, where you staying? I come with you. I make you happy"
"Yeah, I make you very happy, show you goooooood time......"
"Em no thanks, sorry, got to go........"
I hurried down the crowded street, fending off more touts, "Good quality watch sir, you like", "No thanks", though they were no longer my main concern. Suzi, still followed me across the street. She must of done this kind of chase a hundred times before as I zig zagged throught the stationary traffic. "Chinese food sir??", "Just eated thanks..... Full!!!", rubbing my tummy while striding along the pavement, beneath the baboo scaffolding of a derelict building and over the muddy puddles, all in turn, Suzi is still on my case whispering, "Good good time" I shot back across the road to the other side doing my best to lose Suzi, "Nice foot massage sir" "Not today". I turned around the corner, just about tripping up the crouched bodies of shoe polishers who knelt in front of an empty wooden box for a seat. "Clean shoes for you sir.... Impress the ladies... Yeaaahh" "No thanks, must dash"........ and there it was, the bright red sign of the RED LION, my savior. Only 100 yards and I was home dry. As I fastly approached, the sound of two sets of footsteps reduced to one. I turned and she was gone - vanished as if into thin air. "Hallelooya!!" bellowed out from the heavens as the burden of Suzi was taking off my shoulders. I was greeted by the lady at the door and was escorted into the Red Lion, relieved to have lost Suzi. I was hot and flustered and looked forward to a nice pint of larger. I re-adjusted my top after the 10 minute chase and went to settle at the bar. I looked about the smokey dark room trying to make eye contact with one of the fellow travellers, although there was none in sight. I scanned the room turning back on myself where the only people in the room were five women sitting at the end of the bar, playing cards in short skirts and skimpy tops, waving at me. The lady who had escorted me in had ordered my drink where it rested on the counter. What, no travellers, no flatscreen TV above the bar, no barman called Trevor welcoming me. Only a seedy looking women at the front door, five ladies sitting on high stools and an old, rough faced female bar tender barking at me "42 dolla!!!!" It dawned on me the kind of establishment I was in, where I didn't want to be. I reluctently put down my $100 bill for the already pulled drink. The money was snatched away and replaced with my change, which I collected, other than the $8 as that was also wisked away once I picked up the note. As expected I was accompanied by two of the women who sat either side of me. "You buy girl a drink", barked the bar tender.... "Em, I don't have any.....", "Drink, Drink", "ok" I said sheepishly. I thumbed through my pockets looking for my change when the lady to my left said, "You buy mama kitti a drink to?", which I took to be her name. "I can't", which she took well and off she went. "G&T, there you go for the lady, 200 dolla!!!!!!!!", I just about spat my pint back into my glass, "EHHH????? Well I'm sorry, I don't have that kind of money on me. I didn't expect it to be that much" I continued to feel through my pockets in search of any spare change on the vision of some hefty Chinese dude come bouncing through to influence me to cough up with the cash. The women spoke away in Chinese, seeing me nervously looking for the money which I never had. Well I did, stashed in my wallet but I certainly wasn't being forced to buy someone a drink and at $200 too. The bar tender agreed at $50, which I handed over, thinking to myself, I'd just been done...... G&T?? Doubt it. It was only water with ice and I was sitting there just been scammed. I hurried off my pint, fending off any questions put to me by the women sipping her ice and water regarding having a good time and quickly exited the building to a fit of laughter from those playing their cards. No wonder Suzi left me, not wanting to step on the territory of the local female escort house. Well, that was enough fun for one night. At least I had Chungking Mansions to look forward to and on that note, I definitely decided I was to be leaving Hong Kong early.................