Friday 8 January 1999

Hong Kong Mini Bus

Today was a gorgeous day in Hong Kong. There is a Web Cam mounted on the side of my office building, about 15 floors below me that captures the view.

After work today I had to go to a specialty store to buy some groceries. The place is about a fifteen minute walk across a park from where I work.  The district is called Causeway Bay, and is notorious for having maniacal crowds.  I thought today, being a working day, would be different.  Normally it is busiest on weekends.  Well, I was wrong.  It was PACKED, and impossible to walk along the streets quickly because the sidewalks were busting at the seems with people.  I get very impatient in situations like that.  Many pictures of "masses of people" crossing streets are taken at a certain HUGE crosswalk in Causeway Bay.  Now I am used to it (albeit a bit anxious at times) but often wonder what it would be like for someone to come over from Canada to witness the crowds.  Even on a less busy day David Brightling marveled at the mobs of people.

Anyway, I picked up the groceries, slipped into a bookstore to buy two el' cheapo books for myself and a People magazine for Tess.  The shopping mall I was in is also a ritzy office tower complex housing mega-companies' Asia Pacific headquarters.  Companies like Coke and Hewlett Packard can be found here.  On the side of one of the towers is a gargantuan state of the art TV screen, that takes up 2 - 3 floors, with laser/halogen light bulbs.  It projects an extremely clear picture.  This complex is called Times Square and also houses a high-end store called Lane Crawford (read big Holt Renfrew).  They often blast sophisticated Nat King Cole, or Frank Sinatra music, into the street.  They have one song, "O the Good Life" which you may know that I like a lot.  Again, the sound is incredibly clear and fills the surrounding streets.

To get home I hopped on a 16 seater minibus.  To give you an idea, many expats in my office have never been on one of these minibuses.  They are very local (the minibuses - not the expats!)  The drivers rarely speak English, and you need to know a few words of Cantonese to get around.  Typically the drivers are crazy, too.  They will pick-up passengers wherever they can legally stop (and elsewhere, too) and drive very quickly.  Once in February two of them collided, with me sitting right where the collision took place.  The broken glass from the rear view mirror showered all over me through the open window. (Now I always close the windows.) The driver didn't care.  The two drivers exchanged words and were on their way again.

So tonight I got on this one bus, which started speeding its way through HK.  Soon he took a turn up towards Mid Levels and I thought, "O no... WHERE is this guy going now?"  I recalled I forgot to check the sign on the front of the bus, too!!  Eventually he turned back onto the normal route.  (That is the other thing about the minibuses - they will go off the beaten track to drop people off.  Sometimes you never know where you are going to go!!)

As I approached our street I said, "Soy GUY, m-goy!"  This means "Water Street, Please."  Several of the other passengers looked at me curiously (my tone tonight was poor -- or maybe it was good and they could not believe a gweilo could speak like that!) as the driver stopped to let me out.  I gave him a $10 HKD coin and he gave me $4 change.  So less than a buck CDN to get home from Times Square.  A taxi would have been about $45 HKD ($9 CDN).

The walk from the designated stopping point (as designated as they get on minibuses) to Fung Shing Building is about five minutes.  As I walked along I encountered an older Chinese man walking his two dogs.  One was a German Shepherd, the other mixed Labrador.  Amazingly, the German Shepherd had the lab's leash in his mouth, leading the three of them.  The Chinese man walked about a meter.  The lab stopped every few meters for guidance from the owner to make sure the German Shepherd was going in the right direction.  It was one of those situations where one knew the two dogs were very well trained.  They looked healthy, too.

Now I am home typing this e-mail, and I think it is time to study statistics!

By the way, never doubt we don't have intelligent cats -- during the course of writing this e-mail, Cee Cee, playing with a bright pink ping pong ball given to her and Olivia at Christmas, played fetch. NO KIDDING... I threw the ball, and she returned it, about six times.  Here is the amazing part.... she regularly does the same thing with items she is able to put in her mouth.  A ping pong ball, on the other hand, she has to paw handle back to me.

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