Sunday, June 23, 2013


I've been in Hong Kong almost a whole month now, and I've posted about as many pictures as there are hours in a day, so it's obvious that I'm enjoying myself.  But I also know that I'm funnier and tell better stories when I'm bitching about something than when I'm describing how awesome it is.  It's the hard truth.  So putting the label on this that I'm thoroughly enjoying my time here, the bitching (while true) is simply for entertainment, so calm the fuck down.

1)  The toilets.  Let's have a little chat about bathrooms, shall we?  Hong Kong is a very clean city.  VERY clean.  There are no pieces of gun stuck to the streets, and not a single mark of graffiti anywhere in the city.  That being said, while the restrooms are also very clean, there are some issues for someone like myself - especially if said person has not been forewarned.

Many of the restrooms in HK and China are BYOTP. Yes, that means BRING YOUR OWN TOILET PAPER.  Ok, so you want me to buy a roll to keep in my purse IN CASE I leave the house??  Are you really serious with this?  What if you happen to be unaware of such practices and therefore are stuck mid-pee looking around for where the TP might be hidden?  That happened to me ONCE, and I was so horrified that I felt dirty all day.  I still feel dirty thinking about it.  Ugghh.  And then there's this:
OH HELLLLLLLLL NO.  Yes.  That is a toilet you squat over.  Ironically they provided you toilet paper for this one, probably since it's impossible not to piss all over yourself.  I first saw this at the public restroom at the beach we went to.  While surprised, I wasn't COMPLETELY shocked since if you're going to see a squat toilet it's going to be at some public recreational facility that's dirty and rarely kept up.  Up until now I had been in toilets in civilized places, such as my apartment, nice restaurants, my office, etc.  Then we went to mainland China.  Guess what's the norm?  YEP, THAT.  In rest stops, in the hotel lobby (thank god our room was safe from this travesty of hygiene), in NICE RESTAURANTS.  I managed to get through 90% of the weekend finding the handicapped single restroom and using that, since you can't expect a paraplegic or an 80-year-old to squat over a hole. 

Then it happened.  I had to pee and there were no civilized places within walking distance.  The ONE restroom had 4 stalls of this bullshit, and of course, no TP.  The worst possible scenario.  I had no choice.  I went balls to the wall, literally removing the bottom half of my clothing and hanging it up to prevent me pissing all over my shorts, which if I wanted that to happen I could've just pissed my pants and avoided this squatting nonsense altogether.  Then I started getting all confused.  Do I face the wall or the door?  Does it matter?  How far away do I need to be?  Will I lose my balance and fall into this porcelain urine-soaked abyss, forever scarred from using public toilets?

Yes, it was very uncomfortable.  Yes, it was exactly as horrifying as I imagined.  Yes, I used an entire travel bottle of hand sanitizer for the next hour and a half.  No, I will not be doing this again.  Ever.  And I sincerely apologize to the person who used the stall after me, since let's just say I haven't had as much practice as they have.  My bladder will physically burst before I put myself through the squat toilet ever again.  And for those of you wondering, no, I don't go camping, and yes, this is primarily why.


Part 2 upcoming...

Saturday, June 15, 2013


With work taking up my weekdays and rain taking up my weekends, I have turned to excessive shopping to get through the weather setbacks in Hong Kong.  It's not hard.  Every 10 feet there's a mall, shop, market or something that you can indulge in, especially since my office is IN A MALL.  These people don't joke around.

I've noticed a problem, however.  Sure, you expect the hard sell at the trinket markets where they try to bargain you down so you leave with SOMETHING, but I wasn't expecting it in normal malls. 

A week or so ago I went to a street market, basically like the fashion district with some Chinese tchotchkes thrown in, and all I had to do was TOUCH something and I had a saleslady breathing down my neck.  "Only $200, look so pretty on you."  I'd try to explain I was just looking, and keep walking through the stall.  She followed me within 2 inches.  "Ok, ok, $150, I go 150 for you."  No, I'm not interested in the panda keychain I merely touched for 2 seconds upon entering your place of business.  I politely say "no thank you" and walk out of her stall. 

Here's where it gets weird.  She GRABS MY ARM.  "OK OK $100!  I give you for 100, special price just for you!"  Dude.  No.  I don't want it for any price.  I smile and shake my head no and get the hell out of there.  This happened at least 5 times, every time I forgot that touching something meant I obviously want to purchase it.  I had at least two women grab my arm to keep me in the store as they constantly lowered the price of something I didn't want.

In the cheap "malls" which are basically indoor stalls to sell uber cheap clothing (see my engrish tshirt posts), I walk in a store and once again, touch something.  "That's only $79."  Touch another item.  "That's $79 too."  YES I SEE THE GIANT PRICE TAGS THANK YOU.  "Just browsing" is a term they've never heard. 

The absolute CREEPIEST part is the silent stalker.  Today I went to a nicer mall with mid-range foreign stores (plus a Haagen Daas, since they love their ice cream), and EVERY SINGLE TIME I walked into one, a salesperson would immediately start following me around.  The store would be about the size of a small shoe store in the US, where you can easily see everything and offer sizes standing next to the counter.  I started testing this girl out, because I thought being followed was freaky.  She said nothing, but literally followed me in 3 complete circles of the store, stopping whenever I'd stop.

I know this is the customer service culture of Asia, which I was told by my Chinese friends, but sweet lord, it makes me feel like a criminal.  If someone were to follow you around a store silently about 2 feet behind you every step of the way in the US, you'd be convinced they thought you were about to shoplift.  And having been a prosecutor, this is EXACTLY what they ARE doing.

It got to be a game, where I'd try to move quickly in odd directions to see if they could keep up, like I was being tailed in a car trying to lose them.  The ways they compensated made me giggle, as I quickly dodged in and out of racks thwarting their creepy sales stalking.  They were so persistent!  They never gave up their chase, but they also didn't do the things the salespeople in the cheap places did - they just remained silent.

My last stop was a cheap Chinese trinket shop that sold everything from jade to dresses to Chinese print glasses cases.  I was just taking it all in, enjoying the masses of random things, when I noticed someone close behind me.  The passages were really small, so I stepped aside to let the person pass me while I looked at something so I wouldn't be in their way.  She stood there.  Ok...I did it a few more times to let others actually pass, but she never did.  I didn't catch on that she was an employee until I'd done this at least 3 times, then I started to get pissed off.  I wanted to browse, look at all the random things, pick up bracelets, touch fans, shuffle through dresses on the rack.  It's like some people with peeing in public.  I'm sorry, I don't shop with an audience.  It's fucking weird.  I did finally manage to get her stuck behind a dad and his son looking at some toys, where I bolted out of sight to continue shopping in peace.

In a place where everyone pretty much ignores each other (on the subway, on the street, in restaurants, in any other public space), this kind of attention bothered the shit out of me.  And it wasn't because I was a westerner - I saw it happen to Chinese shoppers too.  I couldn't wait to get back on the glorious anonymity that was the MTR and get the hell back to my tiny prison-cell-sized apartment to hide from people.  I'm taking a break from shopping for a bit.

Monday, June 3, 2013


Last week I traveled into the future on an airplane.  It was kind of awesome because I got to skip Monday entirely.  No one likes Mondays.

I obviously haven't flown anything but Southwest in many a year, so I found my economy class seat on the giant Asiana airlines jet to be magical and full of glory.  Aisle seat, yay!  More legroom, yay!  Personal tv, yay!  Then they come by with the meals.  It's a Korean airline, so they offered two - bibimbap (Korean deliciousness) or the "western" meal of beef stew and mashed potatoes.  Being very obviously one of the only westerners on the flight, and definitely the only blonde, the stewardess switched the order in which she offered the meals:

"Would you like BEEF STEW...?" followed by a look that said "of course you do, I don't need to ask, silly American."  When I paused, she proceeded to tell me about the Korean meal in great detail as if I had never heard of it before (to be fair, I'm sure some people who don't have a Koreatown near them probably haven't) to which I replied "I'll have the bibimbap."  She handed me my meal with a combination of confusion and worry that I would be calling her back later to request the stew instead.  I cleaned my plate.

After sitting for 15 hours, we finally reached Hong Kong, and there were a few things I immediately noticed:  1) It is absolutely beautiful, with lush green mountains and blue water and surprisingly Hawaii-esque, 2) driving (or being driven) on the wrong side of the road makes me believe I'm going to die at any moment, and 3) it is the equivalent of combining the heat and humidity of Houston, New Orleans, and Florida all into one. 

Within hours I realized I hadn't packed NEARLY enough, since in my silliness I thought I could get through a whole day in a single outfit, as I do at home.  No no, I sweat through the first one and have to change before dinner.  To be fair, I sweat like an old man.  I have walked around the city for hours a day for a week and have NEVER seen someone as sweaty as I was.  I don't know if my body just isn't used to this weather and will adjust sooner or later, or if I legitimately make more sweat than 90% of the world's population, but either way I'm a disgusting, stinky mess within 30 minutes.  I don't mind being shoved into the subway, but I feel terrible for the people stuck to my stinky body for the whole ride, and I sure as hell won't raise my arms to hold the handles from the ceiling, someone might die.

The money situation is also very weird.  $100 US is approximately $800 HK.  So I see a tshirt that's $115 and nearly shit my pants before realizing it's really about $14.  Bargaining at the street market for a long jade bead necklace, the lady started out at $350, and even when I walked out with it at $100 I felt ripped off and like I just spent my life savings.  I have a currency calculator app on my iphone so that in these moments I can look up the real price and relax knowing I got a pretty nice necklace for $11.  And some fake Toms, same price.

It feels weird getting someone to make change for a $500 bill at a restaurant.  I hand it over with this guilty look on my face like I just overburdened them for making change when in reality that's perfectly normal.  It also kind of makes me feel like a high roller, which I'm obviously not, but I've never touched a $500 bill in US money.  Let me dream.

My current obsession is finding the cheap CHEAP clothing stores that sell the tshirts (like the zebra one I posted) that say things like "finding light under starry love happy world."  They're all about $5-6 and I'm coming home with so many of them it'll be all I wear.  Or something weird like a cat wearing a crown that says "dance princess."  You will all be jealous of my hilarious wardrobe upon my return.

A woman also approached me to sell me a "whitening" face mask at a cosmetics store, to which I stared at her in disbelief and wondered if she could actually see the color of my skin.  True, Asians want whiter skin (why, I don't know), but the pale ass blonde chick?  I'm good, thanks.  Any paler and we'd be working on translucent.

I have still not found the elusive fake Louis.  The ones at the markets were obvious fakes, with the slight changes to the logo that make them a little less illegal.  I've been in crappy shop after crappy shop looking desperately for the really really good fakes that I know exist, and have not succeeded.  This frustrates me but my determination will not waver.  I will return home with the damndest most authentic-looking Louis Vuitton you've ever seen, mark my words.

For now, I must move the one foot over to my bed to watch an undisclosed number of episodes of the Killing before passing out and hauling it back off to work tomorrow, after taking a shower over the sink and toilet in my multi-purpose one-room bathroom.  More photos coming soon.