16 February 2007

The cleanest lift in China

Having failed to walk my feet off yesterday, I elected to do yet more footslogging around downtown, but with no real purpose in mind.  There was the first real hint of Asian winter in the air, with grey skies, drops of rain here and there, and an occasional chill breeze, but it was still shorts-wearing weather for me, if not for most other Hong Kongites.  Patrolling Queen's Road and Des Voeux Road in the main shopping district, I quickly tired of air-conditioned marble-floored malls decked out with luxury stores.  However, I did pay a quick visit to a Chinese-owned department store, Wing On, to explore the menswear section.  This was followed by a scouting run through the smallish Western Markets building, where the only item of interest was a peculiar shop devoted to selling model buses.  I accidentally took the escalator to the top floor restaurant, only to find that there wasn't one back down; if a customer is foolish enough to decline the opportunity to eat there, they obviously aren't worthy of a speedy exit.

Passing by the window of a little McDonalds on Queen's Road West, I noticed an advertising tableaux for a local film.  It provided an example of how a crowded city advertises its movies – the poster crammed 15 characters into a tiny space, all gurning heroically for the camera.  There was Our Grinning Hero With A Sparkly Gold Magic Thing, Our Hero's Geeky Mate, Spunky Pirate Girl With A Big Brain, Sinister Villain With Bad Facial Hair, Goofy Witch Lady With Big Teeth, et cetera.  It must've been challenging for the actors to find 15 different poses for the promo shots.  Not to be topped by this iconography, a poster for a pork burger combo featured a comic actor wearing a giant pig head booting another version of himself wearing a giant dog head up the bum, to symbolise the passing of the old year and the arrival of the new.

Feeling footsore, I decided to ride up to the viewing level halfway up the Bank of China building.  As the day was overcast, the views from the 43rd floor weren't legendary, but the shiny lift was probably the cleanest elevator in China: a small plaque informed occupants that 'this lift car will be wiped with disinfectant every hour'.  I tried not to think why it needed to be.

After a break at the apartment to recover, I went for a stroll through the peculiar Hong Kong Park, which is remarkably artificial, like a Disneyland version of a park.  Fake rocks jut into the concrete lake, sporting signs saying "walking on rocks is prohibited".  In the conservatory, a fake rockface is punctured by a rectangular circuitboard, and the footpaths are bordered by faux wood railings.  Despite the element of unnatural weirdness, it's a refreshing open space in the middle of Hong Kong.

In the evening Reuben and Alex hired a babysitter for the boys and we headed out for dinner at Stanley on the other side of Hong Kong island, 15km south of Central Station.  We dined in a restaurant located in the historic Murray House (1846), a genteel collonaded structure moved from the central city to make way for the Bank of China building that I'd ascended earlier in the morning.  After a quick stroll on the waterfront promenade to round out the evening, we cabbed it back to Old Peak Road for a quick game of Nintendo Wii tennis and bowling.

Tomorrow, London!
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