Hong Kong - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 212 (22)

Hong Kong

Wednesday 6th October

It was another struggle to get up at a reasonable hour again this morning. Predictably, we managed to get out of the building just in time for lunch and set about to find a nice restaurant. This being the restaurant capital of the city meant that we didn’t have far to look. Just around the corner on the first floor of one of the main buildings, an escalator took us up the one level to a very nice place that had lots of nice pictures of things that we considered worth risking. Feeling a little adventurous today, I decided to go with a Japanese box set meal with eel and seaweed soup as the main courses. Sandy also opted for a Japanese box set but felt that the rib-eye steak would be less of a risk. Both meals came complete with rice and a selection of sliced fruit. Sandy did much better with her chopstick this time and managed to get through the whole meal without the need for a knife and fork, accompanied by sniggering onlookers. Quite surprisingly, I found that I really enjoyed my seaweed soup and eel. Together with the sliced apple, melons and pear, this must have been one of the healthier meals I’ve had so far in Hong Kong, indeed the whole trip. Pears, incidentally, are not actually pear-shaped here. They are the same shape as apples but slightly larger and only a very pale green. It makes me wonder what they say when a situation goes pear-shaped. For a very nice meal in a very nice setting, I thought the HK$150 ($20) for the two of us was really quite the bargain.

After our very tasty lunch, I took Sandy to where I saw some advertising for a massage when I went walkabouts last night. There were actually a couple of places right next to each other and after studying the signs listing all the options and prices, we chose one and went on in. The elevator took us to the seventh floor where we passed through a narrow corridor to the small massage parlour. There were several very comfortable looking leather armchairs with towels draped over them and a foot Ottoman in front of each. It was a very small apartment that had clearly been gutted and laid out specifically for the purposes of this business. A very nice young lady behind a small counter next to the door explained how things worked and told us a little about the various massages they offer. She spoke reasonably good broken English and we didn’t feel any sales pressure at all. We both elected to go for a combination back & neck workout with a reflexology foot massage, as this was the special. This would cost us HK$98 ($13) each for a forty-five minute session.

We were first invited to sit in one of the comfortable armchairs and a wooden pale of orange coloured warm water was placed in front of us to put our feet in. It felt quite nice and I was starting to relax already. Tea, warm drinking water and a plate of pear slices were also brought out. Sandy’s masseuse came out and asked her to stand up, turn around and sit on the ottoman so that she could start work on her back and shoulders. She was a very nice looking masseuse and I certainly wouldn’t have objected to her giving me a good work over. Then my masseuse came out. He (just my luck) was a broad burly looking fellow and looked like he could pump iron for China. He looked like he was going to enjoy himself pounding me over and all I could really do was sit back and think of England.

The neck and back massage was divine. This man did some things with his thumb that I didn’t think were humanly possible. He kneaded my muscles in places I didn’t know I had muscles. At times I could have killed him but at others I could have kissed him. After the back and neck phase was complete, we were invited to turn around again to sit in the armchairs whilst they went to work on our legs and feet. He gave me a large, laminated sheet depicting the various parts of the feet with symbols on them representing the parts of the human body that they are supposed to be associated with that part of the foot. I’m not altogether sure just how much stock I put in the whole concept of reflexology but with the wonderful things this guy was doing to my feet, I didn’t really care.

After our forty-five minutes were up, we sat there for a few minutes just bathing in our own relaxation. We were told to drink plenty of water and chatted with the receptionist for a while. I don’t think either of the masseuses spoke any English at all. So comforted were we with the whole session that we decided to come back again later on in the evening for another full-body workout. The receptionist seemed to take this as an extreme compliment to their work showered us with compliments.

We left in a half dazed sleep feeling very relaxed and headed to the public library to take advantage of the free Internet access there. We spent a good hour sitting in the serene setting of this wonderful public library and tended to all our e-mail needs for another day. Internet access is everywhere here and is super fast. You feel like you are actually on the information super-highway backbone itself. I don’t suppose we will have the same generous access to the Internet once in Mainland China so we are taking full advantage of it now, while we still can.

On the way back from the library, we passed a barber and after quickly scanning the price-list, I decided that it was high time I got myself another haircut so we went in. Outwardly, this long and narrow premises looked much like any other barber and the procedure seemed to be the same for the most part. I was sat in a chair in front of a mirror and asked what I wanted. I told the rather hip-looking youngster that I wanted just a little off the top and sides and to keep half my ears covered. He draped me with a sheet and another young hipster led me away to get my hair washed. And a very thorough hair washing it was too with no less than four applications of something or other with a thorough rinsing between each. A third person then took me back to my seat and massaged my head dry before the actual stylist arrived and started to snip away. He too was young and had a bit of a punk appearance about him but seemed to know what he was doing and immediately let loose with a pair of sharp scissors all over my head. A brief few minutes later and I was very short on top, nearly bald down the sides and my ears were completely showing. He thanked me and swiftly moved on to the next victim. I was then taken back to the sinks for yet another thorough washing before they sat me down again and frazzled me with a very powerful hair-dryer. Not really knowing what had hit me, I paid the HK$78 ($10,50) and we left. Perhaps very short was a good idea after all, I kept telling myself as we moved on down the street.

By now it was getting on for early in the evening and we quickly went back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before heading back to the massage parlour for another good going over. This time, however, it was the full treatment with no holds bared. We were first given a light t-shirt and shorts to put on. There is actually no physical bodily contact with these massages. The masseuse uses a thin towel as a layer. This seems to help their hands move more freely. After changing, we each took to our own little curtained cubicle and lay face down on a massage table with our heads nestling into a hole at one end and our feet resting on a couple of pillows at the other. I felt quite relaxed already when he started to dig his thumb into my trapezius again but this time with vigour. I think he was using his thumb to support his entire body weight at times. I know it was doing wonders for me but it was at times quite close to being painful. He left no muscle fibre untouched and the full body workout this time extended to arms as well as the neck and head. Again, I felt completely relaxed after the ordeal was over. It’s strange to have enjoyed what was essentially a brutal assault on the body and I’m sure we will both feel the effects of today’s prodding and poking come tomorrow morning.

We sat and chatted again for longer this time with the only English speaking person in the parlour. As with the last time, our two masseuses sat and listened to the sometimes-laboured conversation between us. The receptionist was quite forthcoming with all sorts of information that I was pressing her on about various things like how Hong Kong has changed since nineteen ninety seven, when it was handed back to the Chinese by the British, what the differences are between Hong Kong and China, what the education system is like and so on. It became apparent after a while that this woman was very well educated and quite smart. She had a very specific point of view about many of the subjects we discussed and I could quite happily have sat there and talked with her all evening. Since we had decided to eat after the massage and not before, our tummies were urging us to leave, however. We paid HK$148 ($20) each for the full-body massage and rode the elevator the seven floors back down to the street level to find somewhere to eat.

Still smack in the middle of restaurant heaven, it took us just a minute or two to locate somewhere new to eat. The place we chose seemed more like an American diner than a formal restaurant. It reminded me somewhat of a cross between a busy Waffle House and a cafeteria. I ordered the minestrone soup along with the mixed grill, fries and sliced bread. The sliced bread was the first to arrive at the table and must have been about two inches thick, lightly toasted and buttered. It was divine and very quickly devoured. Sandy ordered a steak item and the waitress said something that neither of us really understood so we answered with a deer in the headlights stare. Sensing the miscommunication, very quick on her feet, our waitress pulled out a plain piece of paper and wrote 0%, 50% and 100%, pointed to the 50% and repeated what she had earlier said. With this visual clue, it finally dawned on us that she was asking if the steak should be prepared medium. Quite clever I thought. There were a lot of these diner class restaurants on this stretch of the road and they clearly cater for a fast moving crowd of hungry people that are less interested in artistry of a fine restaurant but need a good, filling meal. The food was prepared and served extremely quickly and was very plentiful. It was delicious but there was so much that I simply couldn’t get all the way through it – and between you and me, that’s saying something. We ordered several additional sides with our main course and the total bill came to HK$160 ($21,60).

We meandered slowly back to the hotel to try to walk off the big meal and stopped along the way at several jewellery outlets. There is a lot of gold to be had here and some of it has been moulder and/or sculptured into some of the most elegant and intricate little figurines with a very distinctive, rough-looking finish. We’ve been considering making one of these gold statuettes a souvenir of our time here in Hong Kong. There’s a very wide range of figures to choose from, from rice bowls and chopsticks, Disney figures and emperors and dragons to sports objects and flowers. If we can find one in the shape of a globe, or better yet, a Chinese dragon wrapped around a globe, we may yet buy one. Made of solid twenty-four carat gold, they aren’t cheap but I suspect they are very much cheaper here than can be had back in the West. A figure of about one inch tall comes in at between HK$1000 ($135) and HK$2000 ($270).