I-8: Chungking Mansions - Oh Hai - CycleBlaze

November 27, 2019

I-8: Chungking Mansions

Crossing the border at Yantian into Hong Kong was mostly easy. Having never crossed at Yantian before and not crossed into Hong Kong at all for some years, I can't say if the border was more or less busy than it usually is for a random Wednesday morning in November but it seemed pretty empty and none of the officials were particularly stressed out.

The lanes between Immigration officers are a bit narrow and hard to navigate with a tour bike but no worse than many other border crossings I've been through. Mostly it was just annoying to have to take my bags off and put them through the x-ray only to get them back on again so I could take them off to put the bike on the bus between checkpoints.

Also, although this is the third time I've left China since last year's Incident, it's the first time I didn't explicitly tell the detective in advance. If there was any unusual information on the computer screen or any delay processing my passport, I didn't notice it. 

Logically, I know everything is fine.
Logically, I know that if they continued to think I had anything to do with the package I got in the mail, I would have stayed arrested. 

My innocence notwithstanding, my being let go notwithstanding, the law is pretty clear and the not so logical part of me can't help but continue to be afraid of possible repercussions. This led to me being a bit more flustered at the border than just the frustration of getting through the border.

Over the past week, I've let lots of friends and friends of friends and acquaintances and friends of acquaintances know I was going to be in Hong Kong. I also spammed the heck out of the population of interesting sounding warmshowers hosts. Some people didn't respond. Some people only responded after I'd already figured out where I was going to stay. Some people were out of town.

Down to perhaps five or six potential places to stay, I started figuring out the general location where I wanted to stay and how that worked with regards to the people who were willing to let me stay. For one thing, given my aversion to left side driving and the general 'my brain is broken' mental itchiness I get from being around traditional Chinese writing, I knew I wasn't going to make it more than halfway across the city in one go. 

At the same time, although a number of the possible hosts seemed like really cool people who might be interesting to hang out with, all of them have jobs that would prevent them from actually spending much time with me, and there are very few Officially Interesting Things left to see in Hong Kong that are both unique to Hong Kong and things which I haven't already seen on previous visits.

Pretty much the only thing I had to do was go eat Indian food. Which I did. Not the buffet which my friend had promised me (it turned out to be lunch only) but a random hole in the wall dinner which he thought sub-par (possibly due to his half Indian heritage) and I thought amazing. The African food which we got from a nearby hole in the wall was okay but nowhere near as good as Swahili Kitchen in Greenbelt, Maryland.

I met him near Chungking Mansion since it was a landmark that I knew and which he could find. A five block seventeen storey building with some 4,000 residents and nearly 2,000 hotel rooms, it's practically an arcology full of hole in the wall restaurants, small traders, currency exchange, and no few drug dealers. We weren't propositioned with offers for not exactly legal services quite as much as Mike and I were propositioned on La Rambla in Barcelona but, then again, we were only out and about the building for perhaps two hours.

The ride to Tsim Sha Tsui was nowhere near as harrowing as I'd expected it was going to be. A lot of cycleways have been built since I last tried to ride a bike in Hong Kong (in 2007) and, although I'm still terrified of left side traffic, I've gotten quite a bit more experience with it and generally managed not to drift to the wrong side of the road or nearly get myself killed making turns. I don't see myself going back to ride Malaysia any time soon (though that's partly the heat and partly the cost) but, after this bout of left side traffic, I'm adventuresomely feeling like I might be willing to try Thailand.

Could have done without the incredibly steep side road I had to walk up when the cycleways ended (or at least stopped going the right direction) and both AMap and Google thought I needed to get on to a major thoroughfare (never signposted "no bikes" but far too close to being an expressway for my comfort) that went up and over a mountain and dropped me in the middle of skyscrapers, traffic jams, and protest graffiti.

Forgetting the whole thing where I'm like a stroke victim losing most of my ability to read, Hong Kong from China is a strange experience. Things are cleaner and shinier and better maintained while simultaneously being shabbier and older. There's more rubbish bins and more people using them conscientiously; there's also more people putting cigarette butts out in planters and more litter hiding in the green verge where it's inconvenient (at Hong Kong wages) to have someone clean it up.

Today's ride: 41 km (25 miles)
Total: 2,837 km (1,762 miles)

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