Travel To Grow

Understanding The World Through Travel

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Dec '09

The Inspired Life – Day 5

I hadn’t been as tired as waking up this morning in a long time. It was only 7:15 in the morning and I had gotten only about 2.5 hours of sleep since the night before. I managed to feel pretty good though with the help of waking up to Return to Innocence by Enigma. I woke up so early today because it was my only opportunity to renew my visa in Hong Kong.

I managed to drag myself downstairs by 7:30 very grateful to myself for packing the day before. I was supposed to meet Simon downstairs by 7:30 but at 7:35 when I called him he was still in bed after sleeping through his alarm. Thankfully I’ve learned over time to leave lots of extra time for anything important!

We made it to the ferry in time had no trouble with the tickets. The ferry ride took 2 hours so it was a good opportunity to sleep. It was nice to rest but I didn’t actually get much real sleep.

The first thing you notice when you arrive in Hong Kong is how awesome the skyline is. Sure beats the one I’m used to in Toronto!

I saw the light show at night last time

I saw the light show at night last time

Before heading to the Visa office we needed to get Simon some passport photos. We got his picture taken and then headed to McDonalds for a coffee to wait for them to develop. I was surprised to see in Hong Kong McDonalds a think called McCafe. It had all this higher quality coffee and muffins and stuff. I grabbed a hot chocolate and a sandwich thingy. And yes they do actually draw the M in your coffee like in the picture!

How Classy... For McDonalds.

How Classy... For McDonalds.



Shortly after we grabbed the pictures and headed to the visa office. I felt bad for Simon as they wanted to charge him $300HK more than me because he’s from England. Apparently there are benefits to being Canadian. When we asked the visa office why it was more for him they responded “He’s from England, the people there have more money.” It was pretty ridiculous.

After that we were planning to go to a place where the legendary IP-Man apparently trained Bruce Lee in kung fu. Unfortunately on the way we stumbled across a place called something like the Gaming Zone, we decided to look inside and there were a bunch of machines you could gamble at. Simon warned me he was an avid gambler but we sat down for a second at one of the machines.

The machine was called something like the spinorama, and id soon learn it was the most addicting machine in the entire world. I’m not much of a gambler myself but after about 10 minutes at that machine I was hooked. It’s a 2 player game with a simple concept, you put coins in, and the extra coins you add push other coins out, but there’s so many extra things and so much going on that its insane. Nearly every time you do something crazy happens, and you get to watch a crazy animation and cheer for the dudes in it to accomplish the task and win you coins, and sometimes you can help them with specific button pushes or rapid pushes and the lights flash and the thing spins and the machine always makes you feel like you’re doing awesomely and that your winning, all the while your tokens slowly drain. The thing with this machine is the faster you put coins in the higher your chances of winning become and the more you win from each victory. There are also special balls in the center, and every time you manage to get 3 balls to fall off the edge you get a chance at the jackpot which was 1900 tokens ($950HK). We spent a couple hours on the machine learning everything we could a perfecting the strategy. We also had about 5 chances at the jackpot but it proved to be much harder to accomplish the it seemed. I had spent $100HK and Simon had spent closer to $250HK but every time we ran out of tokens the 3 balls would be right near the edge and we knew if we won the jackpot it would all be worth it. Simon decided the amount we would win in the jackpot would still cover all our costs and much more so he put in a final $100HK and said if we didn’t win we’d declare ourselves losers and move on. With our refined strategies we managed to get certain power-up items that made the jackpot easier to win, and then when the final 3 balls fell the jackpot thing finally activated for the first time. Activating the jackpot thing though doesn’t guarantee a victory though, the jackpot ball still had to fall in 1 specific hole of the 6 that were spinning around. Watching the ball spin closer and closer to the holes was one of the most intense points ever, we had spent so much time on this machine and winning would make it all worth it.

Then we won.

I cheered like a maniac. The $950HK would cover all our costs of the HK trip, and give us a little left over for a fun night. I was freaking out as it was the first time I had ever been part of the winning of a jackpot before.

But then we realized we had misunderstood the jackpot a bit. Instead of directly paying out the 1900 tokens it just put the 1900 tokens in the machine therefore pushing out a bunch of tokens into the winnings. So instead of actually receiving 1900 tokens we estimated we got about 1000. It was a little disappointing… but at least it would cover the money we spent on the machine and a little extra. We went to cash out the tokens, when we received some mind blowing news. We were told the tokens could not be exchanged back for money. They could only be put on a card that would allow us to use them the next time we came gambling. Simon and I were speechless, Simon specifically asked if we could trade the tokens back in when he bought the first round and the woman had nodded yes. She must not have understood what he said. We asked someone else in the place to ensure the lady at the front wasn’t lying and it was true. The entire winnings had been for nothing.  I had a bit of a mental freak-out at this point. I thought “Why the hell would anyone spend real money on gambling if they can’t actually win any real money in return!? If you want the fun of building up imaginary credits play a free online casino and win as many as you want!” Simon must have been even more upset than me as he had spent much more money on the machine. We declared it the biggest waste of time ever. It was such a letdown. We went from being Jackpot winners to losers in a minute. We tried to sell our tokens to the people in the arcade but no one wanted them. We gave them away and moved on.

By the time we left the place it was too late to go on the day trip we had planned. We had completely wasted the day, it felt very uninspired.

Next we went to the Chung King Mansions the place I had stayed at last time I was in HK. I told Simon about how crazy the place was and how we were sure to meet other travelers on cool adventures but to be honest when we got there nothing much was going on. I wasn’t approached by crazy dudes trying to sell me rooms this time, there was no big line of travelers, nothing really adventurous at all. Simon and I then went to try a new place but we got in the wrong elevator. After waiting like 15 minutes for the elevator we didn’t really want to go back down so I just pushed the button for the same place I had stayed last time. That was a big mistake as it was probably the least adventurous thing I could have done.  We did get a good room though, at a good price… It only cost $14canadian each for the night.

After cleaning up we headed out to the sticky fingers bar, which was really the best part of the night. We arrived at crazy hour which let us grab a pint of beer for $20HK rather than the usual $60HK or so. We then drank outside and met a really cool older man from Switzerland who was smoking a pipe.

The man was incredibly interesting to talk to and full of advice and lessons about the world through his years of travelling. I won’t spoil what he talked about here because I want to save it for an upcoming “Talking to Travelers.”

We were told the best place to check out in Hong Kong next was the area called Lan Kwai Fong. We took an expensive cab ride there then had an expensive meal at a Thai restaurant. The area was definitely full of bars, clubs and people but I really didn’t get the appeal. We grabbed 2 pints a place that looked the most fun and nearly cried when we saw the bill for $125HK. Back where we live in china we could have gotten over 30 beers at that price. The people also weren’t the same as in China. I walked up to a girl and started talking to her like usual in china and she gave me a really weird look like ‘Why the heck are you talking to me?’ and another group of people were being all judgmental towards me for some reason. I was definitely missing the open constant friendliness found at Chinese clubs. Maybe people were just in a bad mood due to the ridiculous prices 😀 And I mean there were no dice games or entertainment or dancing or even people playing rock paper scissors for drinks, people were just standing around in little groups… I had forgotten what places like this back home were sometimes like. I just didn’t get it.

We decided there was no way we could justify paying for another beer so we walked down to the nearby 7-11 and grabbed two of the $9HK beers. Here there was clubs on each side full of people paying $125HK for beer when there was a 7-11 selling them for $9HK only 15 feet away. Are we really that desperate to be in a ‘club’ environment when we could be having the exact same interactions with the same people for 1/14th the price only 15 feet away? Sometimes I think we as people are socially conditioned to accept stupid things without questioning them. At least there’s a reason to go to clubs in china, they are freaken awesome!

Looking back at my intention I think this kind of night will really help me to rekindle my positive spirit about china, I will definitely appreciate the nightlife there and the people much more. It absolutely made me realize how much I love China and the people there. They say you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone and I think this night in Hong Kong was a great way for me to see what I should be grateful about in China.

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