Hong Kong 2018

Hong Kong Island, Central

50 years ago this month I first was in Hong Kong. Since then I’ve been in this city about 20 times. The first time was on R&R from the war in Vietnam. The last time was with Leslie in 2013, less than a year before she passed away. Most of the times it was on the way into Asia and again on the way out, with Hong Kong bookending two month trips into the magic of travels with Leslie. Now I’m with Jean and the magic is alive. It’s different, of course, but undeniably beautifully magical.

At the moment we’re on the big A-350 jet riding high and smooth above the mighty Pacific Ocean – the same Pacific we see from the deck of our home in Berkeley.


The first time in HK was a surreal respite from

Exactly 50 years ago, after R&R in HK

war. I stayed in an anonymous hotel, had anonymous sex with several women (I was anonymous; they were anonymous), drank a lot, hung out with several British soldiers, rode the Star Ferry, ate at Ricky’s Café, drank more – one night I got everyone in a bar to stand while I stood on a table singing The Eyes of Texas, yeah – I was a piece of work alright – and most notably spent a few days with a nice Chinese girl. On the way back

to Vietnam, I got a

Jean resting at the (people’s) Fa Yuen Market

quart of gin and a bottle of champagne, which Jeff Wiseman, Mike Noumov, and I drank on an epic drunk at battalion headquarters on Hill 55 before I staggered back insensate into the war.

In 1978 when Leslie and I were living in Austin, she came home from work one day and asked what would I think about going to Thailand? Yes! Sure! We bought one-way tickets in the back room of a Thai grocery store going from Dallas to Hong Kong to Bangkok.

That first time we stayed in a place in the Chung King Mansions. Leslie was nauseated every time we got into the back hallways. We rode the very funky, very small elevators crowded in like sardines with people from across the world – Indians, Arabs, Europeans, Africans, not many Americans. I would wake at 2 or 3 in the mornings and sit all folded up in the tiny, tiny bathroom reading a Larry McMurtry book. We rode the Star Ferry, ate at Ricky’s, and walked and walked and walked, high on life. Then onward to Thailand, Burma, Nepal, and on around the world.

The view from our room

In 2005, David and Jeff and I were there on our pilgrimage back to Vietnam (for Jeff and me) and the first visit to Cambodia (David’s other homeland). We stopped off in HK on the way in and the way out of Asia. Sometime during those days I was riding the Star Ferry alone (I thought probably my last ride). There was a little girl and her father sitting directly in front me. She was singing, first in Chinese, then in English,

“Row, row, row your boat,

gently down the stream,

Merrily, merrily, merrily,

Life is but a dream.”

The day before we left we were in Big John’s Café, a small place in Tsim Sha Tsui, and on the sound system was,

“Those were days, my friend,

We thought they’d never end,

Writing on the Cathay Pacific plane


We’d sing and dance forever and a day.

We’d live the life we choose

We’d fight and never lose,


Those were the days,

Oh yes those were the days.”

And so it has been.

And now it’s three hours before we land (we slept for about six hours)… Jean and I in our life together, 22 months and still our magic unfolding. I’m writing and Jean is creating art – because that’s what she does. My jukebox is playing Brandi Carlisle, Chopin, Van Morrison…

These are the days.

These are the days that

Wonton noodle soup (shrimp) at Tsim She Kee

will last forever,

You got to hold them

In your heart.

I’m so high!

In the Fa Yuen Market (photo by Jean)

Two nights ago we went to a party at Peter N R’s house. It was a total Berkeley party. Stood out front smoking a joint. Inside the question arose, who was Joe Hill? Three people broke into song – “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you and me.” Someone was talking enthusiastically about her meditation teacher. I laid a little something from the Bible on her – “In my Father’s house are many

Tsim Sha Kee

rooms.” Jean danced, I didn’t. An old friend of hers and I talked about how just because someone is gone from our lives doesn’t mean that they have to really be gone. Jean and I were talking with a Jewish woman and Jean said, “I have Jewish guilt.” I could see the woman prepping for something weird. Jean said, “I’m the only person who didn’t bring any food.” LMAO.

From Victoria Peak

New Years Day lunch with David and Charles and John and Sherry at a restaurant on the water in San Francisco. David updated

Jean’s Global Entry on his iPad. We talked of music and writing and art and life.

“Baby, ain’t it all worthwhile.”

Tuesday I went to San Francisco to see David. We talked about travel and Leslie and what David said a few days about he and his Mom and I never really had any issues – any big anger or angst – it has always been all of us trying hard, knowing what we have, just like now.


A couple of days later (night before last): I went for an evening walk along the crazy crowded streets and saw a place I had looked for several times since David and Jeff and I were in HK in 2005. It was Big John’s Café. I had wanted to take Leslie there, but never could find it, and now here it was! The next morning Jean and I went there for breakfast. On the sound system was The Sounds of Silence.

On the Star Ferry. Deep personal meaning to this photo

Life is a miracle!


I want to be like Mary Magdalene

I was coming twice daily as life slowly slipped away from her wracked and wasted body. Three weeks since she first said, “I’m ready to go” and now she’s whispering, “I want to die…” and “Why can’t I die?” Her suffering is infinitely sad and unnecessary. That’s the way suffering seems to go so often. I notice that despite the sadness I don’t seem to completely connect with it. I wonder if I’ve lost so much I don’t have that much connection left.
I remember in Vietnam when I became impervious to the horror, I thought…
It was dark by the time I got into the perimeter of a Marine battalion on an operation at the DMZ. I reported to the commanding officer, who told me to stay with the command group. Some of them were asleep by then, so I lay down beside them and slept the night through.
In the morning I discovered that I was sleeping next to some dead men wrapped in ponchos and laid out next to the command group. Their gear was lying piled nearby and I found a C-ration can of cinnamon roll (my favorite) in one man’s pack. I had started to eat it when some Marines asked for help lifting bodies onto the back of a quad 20 tracked/armored vehicle. There were two men on top of the vehicle and two of us below and I was holding the cinnamon roll in my teeth as we lifted the first man up. His body was tilted up and I was below and a dark liquid ran out of the poncho and down my upraised arm and I couldn’t let go or the body would have gone to the ground and the liquid slid down my arm, down my side.

It was the heart of darkness. The horror. So much for impervious.

Photo of photos of condemned children
S21/Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh


Later it got worse, when the bodies and ponchos started to cook on top of the engine vents as we fought through the morning.

When I first started seeing my friend after she had become so sick, she would ask me to stay and I would. When she went home from the hospital I committed to coming twice daily to her apartment and I did. At first it was a lot of time and a lot to do. Later, there was less to do, but I’m still coming because I said I would. Now I’m only a witness to her suffering.

I thought about Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane right before he was murdered. “Remain here… watch with me,” he said to his disciples. They didn’t do it. I deeply don’t want to let my friend down like the disciples let Jesus down. I want to be like Mary Magdalene, the one who didn’t give up, the one who watched with Jesus through the awful suffering and through the end, who was witness to the suffering, the one who stayed. (And I get it that three weeks isn’t very long.)

Saigon, a little Hanoi, some Sapa


Saigon: We’re staying at the Kim Hotel in a backpacker alley off Bui Vien Street in the Pham Ngu Lao area. $18/night with aircon, fan, hot water, etc. It’s hot in Saigon. Haha, of course it’s hot; it’s the tropics. 
Alley where our hotel is (Kim Hotel) 

We’re mostly just repeating ourselves now – pork chop and egg on rice with tomato and cucumber and café sua da every day for breakfast; walk to Ben Thanh Market across intersections of no mercy, through the park where someone has set up a bizarre Holland exhibit of street, store, café, and garden facades so people can take photos of one another as if in Holland and of course they do take the photos. Across another stressful street, cut up a side street toward the market to discover that this is a largely Muslim street now so when it’s as hot as hell their women can be covered and “protected” while the men are comfortable in short sleeve shirts. Right.
Another alley, where we eat breakfast every day. Leslie on the left.

The market is as before – hot, crowded, some stuff for tourists, some for locals, and one of the world’s great food courts. For me, bun thit nuong with a very generous amount of pork right off the grill and for Leslie a return to the banh cuon stall where about two years ago the woman came out from the stall to hug Leslie and this time the woman (Hue) sees us across the way and breaks into a smile of recognition. Incredible. Good banh cuon for lunch with a fried shrimp pastry. I got Hue’s email address and sent her a photo I’d taken the time before. Here is her email to us:

Dear A Good Couple,
Thank you for your kindness and thanks for coming.
Breakfast of Champions!!!

What can I say? Vietnam has been full of these graceful moments. I’m grateful.

Two nights in a row we’ve eaten at JJ’s Fish and Chips, a small street cart with two tables and four chairs run by a British guy and his boyfriend. Basically, they make the best French fries ever and the fish is outstanding as well. Sitting on the sidewalk next to some open-fronted bars with bar girls sitting outside to entice men and we’re drinking Saigon green label beer over ice (hell yes, just like in the old days) and eating fish and chips.  
Family moto

I made this forum post on the Lonely Planet site: Vietnam scams: We’ve been in VN about 10 days now, mostly Hanoi and Sapa, and now in Saigon. As on previous trips to Vietnam, we are unaware of being cheated – except for today. I was making a small purchase on Bui Vien in the heart of Pham Ngu Lao (the main backpacker area) and handed the woman a 500,000 dong bill instead of 50,000 dong. She said, “OO! No!” and gave it back. So, so far, the only cheating has been totally my own doing. What a numbnuts!

I think the main protective factor is paying careful attention all the time and clarifying everything, which I usually do. But there are those moments of inattention and zoning out. Thanks lady! Vieeeetnaaaam!
Dong Xuan Market – the porter’s area

Hanoi: Taking it easy in Hanoi, leisurely breakfasts, coffee and more coffee, into the flow now. Reading Shogun, a perfect travel book. This copy is an old one, brittle yellowed pages, front and back covers off. I have to keep it in a plastic bag.

Dong Xuan Market, mostly a wholesale market now, narrow aisles, insanely crowded and fast, where a few years ago I felt Leslie patting my bottom and looked around and realized it was an old woman wanting to get past me, where today, someone patted Leslie on her bottom, also wanting by. These weren’t customers but women porters who carry small to huge loads from place to place. I love it; it’s a little like a rave with all these people all together (not loving, but massively getting along – LOL).  
The Queen of Bun Cha

Bun cha for lunch with Leslie somehow knowing what street is what, guiding us through what some people call the “medieval streets” of the Old Quarter – streets that change names every 1-2 blocks and direction whenever, walking along the edge of the streets/in the gutters because the sidewalks are blocked with vendors and their goods, bales of this and that, stuff kind of spilling out of stores, parked motorbikes, and so on – and here in the streets we’re sharing space with countless motorbikes passing by literally inches away (with one person riding, two, three, four, carrying everything from huge loads of rice to a refrigerator, yep, a refrigerator), a few cars, xyclos, women carrying bamboo poles with baskets on each end (baskets of produce, baskets of tiny portable cafes – really, baskets of portable butcher shop, flowers, clothing, I mean everything), other pedestrians, stacks and bales of whatever – WOW!
This whole cafe fits in 2 baskets, each one carried at ends of bamboo pole 

She says, “If we go straight here and turn left, we’ll be at whatever becomes something.”Hahaha, that’s my wife talking as she takes us through these “medieval streets.”

Bun cha and crab nem for lunch and garlic and more garlic, garlic as a flavoring, garlic as a spice – you know you’re getting a lot of garlic when it’s hot like Tabasco. Acha!

She says, “Here comes a dead chicken” and sure enough, here comes one carried by its feet by a woman.
Why me? Taken in bun thang cafe in Hanoi

Leslie’s email to David: We’re back in Hanoi after a nice visit to SaPa, a beautiful town with an abundance of even more beautiful Hmong people. The whole scene seemed more Nepalese than Vietnamese; surely all mountain people originated in the same place as they all really look alike. Two 12 hour train rides with only a night to recover was a bit much, but the train was better than I expected.

We leave here tomorrow for Saigon and are staying at Mrs. Kim’s as usual. This time, we booked an airport taxi with her to skip the hype, cheating, and angst of doing it ourselves upon arrival.
Leslie throwing elbows in a plane scrum

CK at the fish and chips place in Saigon
All is well here. The two young women at the desk have been wonderful to us. We really got passed hand-to-hand from here to the train (someone from the hotel followed the taxi to redeem our receipt for actual tickets at the station) and then had a van driver waiting for us in Lao Cai for transport to SaPa. The return trip was even more interesting. The Paradise View Hotel booked a van to Lao Cai which deposited us at a Cafe near the train station; the proprietress obtained our train ticket and then sent a young man to escort us to the station and position us in the right line at EXACTLY the right time. Finally, when we got off the train in Hanoi, a young woman who was also a passenger on the train called the Camillia for me, and Huyen from the front desk brought a taxi to take us to the hotel. We just accepted everything on blind faith, not understanding anything until each step was completed. I can’t think of any place in the world except Vietnam where all of this could actually work out successfully. Amazing, really!

Hope all of you are doing well. It must be nearly Thanksgiving; we miss being there with you. Give our best to Charles and a big “woof” to Jake.

Motos in the night. Photo taken from the fish and chips place.

Hahaha, there are little bitty ants crawling along on my computer screen.

On the way to Hong Kong and beyond, a tender heart

Picture a door leading from inside a house to outside. The threshold is about ¾ inch high… Threshold definitions:
A piece of wood, metal, or stone that forms the bottom of a door frame and that you walk over as you enter a room or building.
The point or level at which something begins or changes.
Hue, in the old palace grounds
Though I sometimes still carry a backpack traveling, I usually use a rolling suitcase these days. We’re on the way to Asia for about 6 weeks plus time in San Francisco going and returning. Yes, let the good times roll. It’s two minutes until the airport shuttle picks us up and I’m rolling the suitcase out the front door and as the suitcase goes over the threshold, Pop!, the handle breaks completely and irrevocably. This is the suitcase that replaced the one whose wheel came off less than two years ago as we walked to the bus stop to catch the A21 bus from Mong Kok to the Hong Kong airport on the way home. I didn’t realize the wheel was off until we were at the bus stop. Dang, I was thinking, “This thing sure is hard to pull today…”
Threshold: The point or level at which something begins or changes.
Hahaha, here we go. Rolling.

San Francisco, near David and Charles’ house

ATM we’re in San Francisco, staying with David and his partner, Charles B. and their dog, Jake. Lazy days, same old thing, buses and streetcars to Good Luck Dim Sum, the new Market Street Whole Foods (you didn’t think Whole Foods in SF is the same as Whole Foods in Dallas did you!), Castro, New Chinatown, all them places. Meals with David and Charles. Coffee, lunch at a sidewalk café, people, dogs, passing by and the occasional whiff of cannabis. San Francisco!
Our schedule of Hanoi to Bangkok in 6 weeks with stops here and there, depending on flooding seems like it might be changing already. It didn’t occur to me that Hanoi might have issues, but it seems to be directly in the path of Typhoon Haiyan. (Written a day before winds veered away from Hanoi – keeping it in because it’s what we’re thinking about.) By the time the typhoon hits Hanoi it will have deteriorated to a tropical storm with 50 mph winds vs. the 100+ mph winds of a typhoon. The Vietnam government has evacuated 600,000 people around Hanoi. So we’ll see what happens. Hopefully we can get to Hue/Danang/Hoi An and then onward. If not, the train into NW Vietnam to Sapa in the mountains is a possibility. Whatever.
Hue, at a tomb
Now there’s word that protests and strikes are happening in Bangkok. We’ll have to see how that goes too. A couple of years ago, about a mile from our hotel, the police raided some guys that were making bombs. One of the guys got out and threw a grenade at the police. It bounced off a pole and killed him. Of course we only saw it on the news.
Onward. Our plane takes off in six hours (Cathay Pacific). We’ve flown United (the worst), Korean Air, China Air, Thai International – and Cathay Pacific is the best at a decent price. The flight is supposed to take 13 hours, 25 minutes. We used Seatguru.com to get some primo seats (in one of three rows of two seats vs. the 3-4 seats in all the other rows and with some extra leg room for one of those seats.

Ban cuon lady in Hanoi. The people on far left are in
another cafe. This is a small place. Leslie’s favorite.

Hong Kong (Mong Kok), Hanoi Old Quarter, Ninh Binh, Hue, Dalat, Saigon, Can Tho/Mekong Delta, Bangkok, Chiang Mai (it’s the Banana Pancake Trail for sure).    
“Whole generations of westerners who went out there as soldiers, doctors, planters, journalists … lost their hearts to these lands of the Mekong … they are places that take over a man’s soul” (Jon Swain, one of the last westerners out of Cambodia in 1975).

Tender-hearted Leslie. I’ve known few people as truly tender-hearted as Leslie. She really does hate suffering and injustice and all that. She doesn’t like to hear about these

things, much less talk about them. Yet she spent most of her life deeply engaged and helping with people and in situations where there was enormous suffering and injustice. That was what she did. She changed a lot of people’s lives. She sacrificed a lot, laid it on the line, on the altar.

Please don’t take the word sacrifice casually. Think in terms of going eyes wide open into the fire, Think in terms of wounds.
Part of this was that she connected with people and would not turn away. It was personal with her. Her connections were personal and her battles were personal. What a warrior! A warrior for justice, against suffering.
So, here we go, on what really may be our last trip to Asia. 

Poems, a magician, holding the door, the beautiful Wind Rivers, Between Two Fires, dreams and dedications

These are all the poems I could find that I’ve written.

2011 – For about 6 months Leslie and some friends did an epic job of caring for a Sudanese woman who was dying from breast cancer – a refugee, a woman’s rights activist from bleeding Sudan. I helped some also. Maryam wasn’t really her name. I wish I could put her photo in – you’d see what I mean. The whole story is here.
To Maryam

Lying in the bed,
A little smaller each day
Slender once, thinner now
Mocha framing numinous eyes
Quick mind, quick speech
Clear thin voice
Following each thought
Through this strange land
Where everyone everywhere every time
Has gone each time like the first time
Smiling in the face of fear
We’ll not speak of this now
Now that we’re here
Here like all before
Here like never before
Last week seeing your sister
With drawn face
Open to her sadness and pain
When I came unexpected
Around the corner
Before she could cover her soul
We are flesh, blood, bone, skin
The carriages of our souls
Rolling through
These streets this life
This pain, this joy
This longing
You know and I know
What’s real (and what’s not)
But we can wait for awhile
No need to rush to where we are going
From Hue 2011/2012 (not a poem, but it’s important to me): After a banana pancake breakfast (with honey and yogurt) and not forgetting a glass of very strong cafe sua and a few minutes later splitting an omelet/baguette sandwich, we took a riverboat cruise for 100,000VND (Leslie’s bargaining acumen) to

These mist-covered mountains, from the Song Huong (Perfume River)

Thien Mu Pagoda, 45 minutes up the perfume river. This where the monk Thich Quang Duc lived before he went to Saigon in 1966 to immolate himself in protest against the VN government and the war. The pagoda and grounds were quietly beautiful –understated and mossy with just a few people around and a view from the grounds across the wide river, past the plains, to these mist-covered mountains where we fought and bled, where so many from every side fought and bled and died, aching for life – me for a beautiful dark-haired girl whose photo was so washed out from the water that only the shadow of her left eye was left and now, 45 years later, looking across the room from where I write she’s sitting on the bed, the love of my life, beautiful, her hair white now and here we are in Hue and I look out through the glass-paned doors toward palm trees and mossy buildings – it’s misting in Hue.

Written at the last camp site after 2 weeks on the trail in the southern Wind Rivers

In the early morning sun,
Wishing you were here with me
Knowing we’re together soon
Knowing that’s forever more

I’ve loved you for these many years
I’ll love you many more
We’ll be together now
And forever more

Sun coming up (now) over foothills
Like it’s come up these past days
Over mountains stark and grey
How can I be here
In this place so high and wild

Campsite near where I wrote the poem at left 

All these years passing by
Not like a dream, not like a mist
Like treasures one by one
Passing through my life enriched

Working hard to make it so
Lucky that it’s turned out like this.


and what lies ahead like a sparkling lake in the high snowy mountains, into lakes, lakes into streams, into lakes, into sparkling rivers and
These are the days
All the days we’re given
All that we have
Holding together


No Mas

Mexican girls
Dark-eyes, sad-eyes, sloe-eyes, slow-eyes
Fiesta Mart perfume on
Skin so beautiful it takes my breath away.
Mexican girls
Walking arm in arm in lives
Arcing, peaking in the 10th grade
In love affairs bringing baby girls and boys
Sweet brown babies
Jessica, Junior, Araceley, Raymond
Riding in strollers with young mothers
Heads high in tattered pride
Knowing in this life there are no second chances and that
The 10th grade peak was it.
2007 – I found these lines among some papers. I have no idea who wrote them. Maybe me, maybe Robert Hunter. All I know is that I wrote them down on a scrap of paper.
Roses Round the Virgin

Joyfully she sings
I’ll be remembered
A 1000 years and over again.
And I saw
her tear.
Red roses, pink, white
In fragrant garland
On her breast.
No thorn, but
soft petals on
The Virgin’s breast.      
The red dirt cemetery is dry under the Texas sun
Monuments stand straight, tilt in red dirt
In the center, Confederate battle flags still fly
Honoring the men who fought for their country
My Grandmother is buried next to those flags
My Grandfather, uncles, aunts, others
Are next to those flags
A little concrete border runs around the plot
Someday we’ll put my mother’s ashes there
But for now, they’re in our dining room
In a box, with an old-fashioned knitted cover draped
18 years there, waiting for me to be ready
That’s pretty much my whole poetry output.

A magician

I was at 4211 San Jacinto and an older Vietnamese woman invited me into her apartment. I walked in and What! The apartment was literally filled with

I took this photo of a village meeting near Danang in 1967.
The women in the left and right rear are VN peasant
women archetypes. Not to be trifled with.

Buddhist statuary, incense burners, wall hangings, and the like. Her story was that all her life she’d been angry and subject to verbally and sometimes physically attacking other people. One night she had a dream and in the dream saw her apartment full of Buddhist icons and related. She started recreating the dream in real life and as she did, she lost the anger and people began asking her for advice. By the time I met her, she was counseling and doing ceremonies for many people and very effectively from what people told me.

I liked to visit her, sitting at the little kitchen table, drinking the café sua or tea she’d fix; she’d be smoking cigarettes.

Holding the door

I was holding the door for my wife as we were going into a market today. A couple was behind her so I held the door for them too. The man said thanks and something about me being “old school” and I said something like, “Right.” He says something about me being a Republican and I laughed and said no. Then he launched into a vignette about how he had told a woman he was Republican as he was holding the door for her and she wouldn’t go through. I said, “Right on!” And he muttered something about how he told the woman if she needed help she’d be happy to see him. I just smiled and moved on. It was getting kind of weird.
What I feel for the Wind Rivers

This is a good description of what I feel every time I go into the Wind River Mountains. It’s not that the Winds is the only place that would evoke these feelings – I imagine other mountains and deserts inspire similar feelings in other people. There’s a basin somewhere along the Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop that also affected me in this way. 
The Winds. Twin Glacier.

“… I had already dreamt my way into their (the Brooks Range in Alaska) fabled midst many times over. And I can say, without reservation, that the age-old dreamer within me was vindicated by what he beheld – a landscape for which I felt an instant nostalgia, a landscape that inspired deep within me a terrible longing never to die, never to go blind to the world…” Dennis Schmitt

Between Two Fires

On a day when something nice would have been especially nice, something

Teaching at psytrance gathering

really nice happened.

About a month ago, in the context of writing about my spiritual development, I wrote about Between Two Fires, an extraordinary book by Christopher Buehlman. Today, the mailman handed me a surprise package with a book inside – Between Two Fires. The author had seen my blog and taken it upon himself to send the book and a kind and affirming note.  

Dreams and dedications

Leslie and I have always talked about our dreams – basically every morning. Now, we sometimes remember that one of us has had a dream, but seldom do either of us remember much content any more. Two important dreams: 

I lay dreaming that I was near an outdoor marketplace, watching a group of musicians set up to play. One by one, they began to tune, softly. Then in a soft clear voice, a woman sang the words, “Who knows … where the time goes … ” and at that moment I awoke and said, “To Leslie.” A true vision. Dedicated to my wife, Leslie.
Leslie and David in the rain in Hue

When my son, David, was about five years old, I dreamed one night that the end of the world had come. Everything was just slowing, slowing, slowing and I was drifting in space. I knew when it all stopped, that would be the end. David drifted into my arms as a voice said, “Into the arms of his father.” It was a calm encompassing peace. Dedicated to my son, David.

(On a three day combat patrol 1966 or 67)

Waking one morning to sit smoking
Watching the day begin through misty green
Slow, soft, green and mist
I could sit here for a thousand years.

Hong Kong2 – Into the Flow

We’re into the magic of the Hong Kong trip now – the crowds, the harbor, the Star Ferry, the food, the people, the alleys and narrow passages … ahhh.
A little background on Hong Kong: We’ve always stayed in Kowloon. Kowloon is a peninsula split by Nathan Road running north from the harbor

and the Star Ferry. The ferry runs back and forth between Kowloon and HK Island where the financial district (Central), Wanchai, Happy Valley, Victoria Peak, etc. are. The southern end of Kowloon is called Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) and is the main tourist area. TST is where the Chungking Mansions is – which nobody would call a tourist place – one newspaper called it “the most notorious flophouse in Asia” – I call it amazing. Here is something from Chungking Express: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCMkHm7HTBU&feature=fvst.

Photo above: Street performer, playing beautifully.
Going north from TST there is Yau Ma Tei where the Temple Street night market is, and then Mong Kok, which is where we’re staying. Hong Kong is the most densely populated place on earth and Mong Kok is the second most densely populated district there – wow, people everywhere. No kidding, it’s an art to move through the crowds and the people there are artists – no bumping, no jostling, just flowing through a true sea of humanity. To me, it’s sometimes magical, sometimes a little crazy, and always intense.
Photo: The corner near the entrance to the Sincere House where we’re staying. Can barely see the entrance between/above the man in the orange sweater and the woman in the pink top

Here is our trip. Up at whenever. The room we’re in now has no window, so it might be 5 or 7 or later (but not much). I fix coffee in our little filter

holder and we have coffee and talk. I go for a fast walk with a little running and whenever there is a street to cross and the light is red, I do 25 inclined push-ups (total at least 100). On the way back to the room I pick up breakfast – usually dim sum, sometimes ham and egg sandwiches at Cherikoff Bakery or 7-11 (7-11 not the same as in U.S. – way smaller, cheap, and with some unique products such as rice with chicken feet). After breakfast I shower, get a leg-rub, and

we talk about the day. Then it’s off to the races and back by around 4pm for Leslie to get a back-rub, take a nap, and figure out what’s for dinner. I usually go for a walk after dinner.
ove through the crowds and the people there are artists, no bumping, no jostling, just flowing through a true sea of humanity. To me, sometimes it’s magical, sometimes maddening, and always intense.
Photo above: On the street
The day after the last post we caught the bus to the Star Ferry and the ferry across the harbor to Central, then #15 bus up the Peak, going higher and higher past the office centers, TB hospital, past the graveyard, past the ultra-expensive apartments and homes

and then HK the skyscrapers, buildings, the harbor, the buildings spread out below in the haze that’s always there at this time of year. The bus lets off near a shopping center-type place and we go up to Pacific Coffee where we always go, sitting at the glass wall overlooking all of HK, lingering over a double espresso, enjoying the view, reading the South China Morning Post, talking …

Photo: The Star Ferry
Back down on what seems a crazy fast bus ride to where we get off to walk
to a famous wonton noodle shop for shrimp wonton noodle soup (the shrimp here have a wild taste, unlike the bland shrimp we get in the US) and vegetable with oyster sauce. We sat at a table and talked with a woman who came to HK from Vietnam in the early 80s. She’s doing well now, but I know those were some grim early days. Bus to ferry and ferry back to Kowloon, riding that ferry so many times over the years and every time magical. This was our biggest day so far – Leslie is better and better every day.
Photo: On the ferry
And so the trip goes, no big events, few big attractions, just Being. Here. together.

The next day we went to Pat Kwan, the chilli sauce etc. place to buy some black peppercorns, then across the street to Fa Yuen Market to buy white peppercorns and walk around. The nice looking woman at one of the fruit stalls remembered us from last year (“You go to Vietnam.”), which was nice. I walked to the Chungking Mansions to change money, then back up the road a bit to meet Phil (an internet friend) and his son Henry. We had a good time – Phil is an easygoing person,

easy to be around and Henry is a great kid – like his other two children. I was running late, so made a sweaty dash to the ferry to meet Leslie, back to Tsim Chai Kee for more soup and vegetable. This time we shared a table with two students from Singapore and had a good time talking with them too.

Photo: Leslie waiting for the elevator in the Chungking Mansions

On our last full day we went to the Chungking Mansions for some Indian food and ended up at a Pakistani place having a good, cheap meal of chicken tikka masala, naan, pakoras, vegetable samosas, and milk tea. The place had one table, which we

shared first with two men from India, then with an intense guy from Pakistan, and of course there was the amazing parade of humanity from across the globe. Yeah! After we ate, Leslie wanted to take the elevator up to see if the floors had changed. The first one we saw was quite a bit nicer than in the old days, but the other two were the same as ever.

Photo: CK at entrance to the Mansions

That night I walked down to the Temple Street night market to see what was happening in the way of thangkas. Too bad, the place that sold quality Tibetan and Nepalese goods was gone.
Tsering, a Nepalese woman Leslie met before was still selling images, thangkas, etc., but the quality is not comparable to the other place. Sai Yeung Choi Street South was blocked to traffic and full of people, amazing crowded, buzzing with energy and conversation. There were some stre

et performers, including a young woman playing a Chinese violin beautifully. Hong Kong. What a place!