21 February 2006

Hong Kong 1

My flight left Heathrow on Friday night a week and a half ago. I watched some mediocre film and ate my mediocre airplane dinner and managed to get some mediocre sleep for several hours. I landed in Hong Kong on Saturday afternoon with no real clue (either biologically or mentally) what time it was. I took a coach from the airport (30 miles outside of the city) to my hotel. My first problem when I arrived was that none of the lights in the room seemed to work. I wandered around flipping switches in the dark for a while, then managed to get the TV on (which at least confirmed the electricity as working) and swore at the lamps in the dim light of the static from the TV. I was just about to embarrass myself by calling the front desk when I saw a little slot just inside the door with a glowing LED.

Evidently you need to put your hotel keycard in the slot while you're in the room to activate the lights. That way, when you take your key and leave it automatically shuts them all off for you. Pretty high tech, really, although I found it incredibly confusing for the first 5 minutes. Shaun called up to my room within 10 minutes of my checking in and asked if I wanted to go out for drinks and dinner (evidently it was dinner time). I took him up on the offer, of course, and met him and a couple other people on the course in the hotel lobby.

This course was a series of statistical genetics lectures and tutorials given by experts (or some approximation in my case) to local molecular biologists, doctors and the like at Hong Kong University. Luckily for me, two of the faculty members (Ben and Jo) had spent a fair amount of time in HK, since their advisor (the workshop organiser, Pak Sham) is there. This meant that Shaun and I had two compatriots with at least some local knowledge. We set off into the city and found a fairly decent bar in one of the swankier parts of town. We had a few beers then had a pretty good jam at a cheap, open air restaurant.

I slept pretty soundly that first night, but not for very long. I was awake by about 5AM on Sunday. I watched The Man Who Wasn't There on my laptop (I had brought the DVD with me) and then opened the curtains, whence I saw what looked to be thousands of people fleeing a tsunami, on foot on the major highway. Thankfully it wasn't too long before I learned that the Hong Kong Marathon was that day. I took advantage of free breakfast at the hotel (something I did every day, actually). It was pretty much the only meal each day where I ate anything remotely Western. They had a decent variety of food (eggs, croissants, bacon etc) but it wasn't exactly fabulous. The coffee was good, though.

I hung around my room for a bit that day (and watched my other DVD, Blood Simple) before Deb met me at my hotel. We walked around the city for a while, including a visit to an unbelievably incense-filled and noisy temple. We met up with one of her friends and took the ferry across the harbour to Kowloon, but we really only had a few minutes to check out the scene over there. That evening our host, Pak, took the faculty crew out to the first of several banquet style dinners. Basically everyboyd sits at a round table with one of those oversized lazy-susan rigs in the middle. They bring out 10 or 12 courses of which everyone has a little bit. The food all week was pretty awesome. This particular night featured a whole roast duck, of which Ben decided to eat the head.

More on the rest of the week later. In the meantime, you can see the meagre selection of photos that passed my strict quality controls in the new album on the right.

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