Saturday, April 19th, 1997 - Kowloon, Hong Kong

We finally made it. I am in the flat of my friend, Raymond, here in Kowloon, it is fairly early in the morning, as I have not slept that much over the last night.

The rest of the flight yesterday was uneventful, we had another few meals, a few movies then flew into Hong Kong. Unfortunately, it had been raining in Hong Kong yesterday so there were a fair amount of clouds, however, we did get an interesting view of Kowloon as we landed. I had been told what to expect, Hong Kong only has one airport right now and it only has one landing strip and is located essentially in Hong Kong harbour on re-claimed land. As you land at the airport you pass very close to many buildings and you perform a few sharp, yet interesting turns getting into the airport.

We arrived about an hour after we were told we would arrive, most likely due to the fact that the travel agent was not aware that Hong Kong does not observe Daylight Savings Time. I was quite worried that my friend would be waiting for us at the airport. It turns out there was quite a good reason to be worried.

After we arrived, Mike's luggage had been mis-tagged to be delivered to Manila so it took us a few hours, first to wait for the luggage on the carousel then next to wait for the baggage people to trace the luggage. Eventually, we left the airport baggage area about 4 hours after we said we would arrive. I had to first contact Raymond as he was not waiting, which proved to be difficult as I tried to use a phone that was only long distance, eventually I had to get some coins then use a local phone to learn from him that he had been there earlier and that we would have to catch a cab to his apartment.

This again proved fairly interesting, we waited for a cab and the driver spoke little, if any, English and also did not know where the street or apartment was. Eventually, he left us off on a street that was not the right area, we had to ask some people where to go they pointed us down the street, after which we called Raymond and he walked over to pick us up. We were left off about a block from where he lived.

Hong Kong is a very interesting place, or at least, this area is very different from anything I have ever experienced before. The cab driver must have, at times, exceeded 70 or 80 km/hr whipping around corners and braking hard at lights. I was more interested with the scenery, there were many shops with banners extending into and across the street, many of the shops were still open despite it being 9 o'clock on a Saturday night. I am told Hong Kong never closes anyway. The interesting part is that above every shop there are apartments, but very different then we are use to, they look like boxes, for each flat, that have been stuck together fairly haphazardly and they are not, at least on the outside, the cleanest. Much of it is really what I have seen expressed in some Science Fiction writing of the future, a mixture of the high-tech and masses of people.

Eventually arriving at the flat we were previously aware it was small, but that had not prepared us for the fact of the matter as it is VERY small. The whole apartment is about 18 feet square and we were told by Raymond that he bought it for $1.2 million (HK) which is about $210,000 (CDN), he is selling it for about $1.6 million (HK) after living here for 4 months (he is moving to a somewhat larger one). The cost and size is just incredible, space here is truly at a premium. I am sleeping in the living/dining/entertainment room, Mike is sleeping in Raymond's office and Raymond and his wife Avery (Ava) are sleeping in their bedroom. We are both on the floor. But, since we are not really here to stay at the house, just to sleep here, it is not a problem, we figure. It is certainly going to be very interesting staying with them, already many insights into everyday life here have been shared.

My Sleeping and Writing Arrangements at Raymond's

I was talking to a gentleman beside me on the plane about various things, he was explaining a bit about the massive land reclamation effort that has occurred here over the last 100 years but he was also discussing a bit about the situation with the handover later this year to China. I have heard many different thoughts on what will happen when this territory reverts to China. Many say nothing will happen others say human rights will be violated and the area will become a trap for many people. Most suggest that Tienanmen Square was a good indication of how the Chinese government treats human rights activists, others have pointed out that China has made the commitment to make Hong Kong a “Special Administrative Region” (SAR) for 50 years after the take over. Due to the fact that China has indicated they will be repealing some human rights measures enacted by HK over the past few years, this is a sign that more is to follow. The gentleman I talked to on the plain suggested that the agreement for the 50 years was signed in 1984, the Chinese government is merely repealing any laws enacted after the agreement was signed, therefore, returning Hong Kong (administratively) to when the 1984 agreement was signed (after all, that is what they both agreed to).

⇒ Continue to Sunday, April 20th, 1997 - Kowloon, Hong Kong