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Week 7 - Dim Sum

Seventh entry of my year in Hong Kong. Busy week with Tenet, tourist bus and dim sum.

sunny 34 °C
View Bham->Dam->HK on David Zhao's travel map.

Posted on 13th September 2020

Huge thanks to Dr and Mrs Holliday for awarding me the Nick Holliday Travel Scholarship, in memory of their son Nick who was a geography teacher at KES. He was an avid traveller, explorer and climber, and died tragically in a climbing accident doing what he loved. The Scholarship helps fund the travels of KES students who aspire to travel, which I am sure Nick would be very proud of.

Quite a busy week this week. Still teaching the Year 1s and 2s living onsite. School was meant to reopen on the 16th for key year groups (Y1, Y2, Y11 and Y13) but has now been pushed back to the 23rd. Hectic as always when on shift but thankfully only working half-days so we have the chance to recover. Was a real challenge when we first started, essentially being thrown straight in as the main teachers of the Year 1s and 2s - getting them on task and helping with all of their classwork - without any form of teacher training. Learnt so much in the past three weeks in terms of dealing with kids who play up, fall behind the rest of the class, struggle to grasp simple concepts etc. - very grateful to have had this experience.

When I first arrived I noticed how strange the place was, in that there are beaches, skyscrapers and mountains within very close proximity of each other. Now realised that the variation in HK's physical layout and climate is to a large extent. For instance, it's very sunny the majority of the time, but then it's quite common for it to just start pouring it down out of the blue with no warning, similar to a flash flood. It then just stops after about half an hour, unlike in the UK where it can pour for days at a time. Witnessed at least five intense tropical thunderstorms so far; actually quite cool at night as some of the lightning is so vivid it turns the whole sky purple in sci-fi movie fashion. Sky sometimes goes an orange-purple colour which you only get in tropical climates, mainly just before a typhoon hits. Had two of those so far, one of them being a T8 where everything closes (transport, schools, restaurants). Goes up to T10 which is where the eye of the storm passes through HK and winds can reach 200km/hr. Last one was in 2018 - Typhoon Mangkhut - and the school had to evacuate during it because the winds were so strong that they blew the fan of an electricity generator the wrong way and caused a fire.

There is quite a stark contrast in wealth in HK. Mentioned the Foreign Domestic Helpers two weeks ago who are on a relatively low wage and are completely dependent on their employer for their work permit. Built-up areas I've been to so far are very wealthy, but there are areas that are not as flashy and the contrast in wealth is prominent and actually quite astonishing. Local settlements consist of makeshift housing - corrugated metal roofs and low environmental quality - and are actually quite common in areas away from the city, which I didn't expect coming here given HK is thought of as a global business hub rich with multi-storey executive buildings and skyscrapers. Not that there isn't any of that glamour - it's in abundance - but it was surprising to see buildings that weren't flashy or worth over £1 million. Eye-opener as to how not all of HK is about designer brands and making money. Quite common to see high-rise buildings built literally on the mountainside, which make you confused as to how they haven't caused a landslide and collapsed yet.
Local settlement and buildings on the mountainside (hills are much steeper than they look)

Applied for our HK ID cards on Saturday. Went to an immigration and residency centre in Kiu Lok Square. Thankfully the process was a lot shorter and less complicated than the COVID testing we received upon arrival. Showed our passports and filled in a form to get our IDs. Would've been very relaxing apart from the fact that they took everybody's thumbprint. Nothing major but some of us were saying we didn't feel particularly comfortable with the HK government having such sensitive information on their database.
Immigration centre and thumbprint scanner that everybody applying for an ID has to use

School has two ancient dragon stones in one of its lobbies. Apparently they're more than 500 years old and are astonishingly detailed considering they're etched onto pieces of rock. Dragons are quite a powerful symbol in Chinese culture; they symbolise wisdom, nobility and power and are also a symbol of celebration during Chinese New Year. Additionally, in Chinese mythology the dragon represents the king whilst the phoenix represents the queen, and these two together create perfect harmony in Yin and Yang.
Dragon stones in the school lobby

Saw Tenet after we got our HKIDs. Cinema was quite nice but the sound quality was far from UK standards, with the speakers seeming quite cheap whereas UK speakers are almost built into the walls. The six of us got extremely angry at the rule that we couldn't eat in the screening as we had spent the entirety of the journey talking about how excited we were to munch on a big bag of popcorn. Sound effects were very loud whereas dialogue was too quiet, ruining the quality of the film, which I think would've been very confusing even if we could hear what was being said. None of us really knew what we'd just watched at the end of it. Wasn't like some of Christopher Nolan's other films where there's a big reveal at the end and everything comes together. Got KFC afterwards though which cheered us up.
Emperor Cinema, Tuen Mun

Went into TST, Kowloon again yesterday. Took the tourist bus this time which gives you an amazing view. HK is comprised of many small islands which are connected by picturesque bridges; we saw the one connecting Tsuen Wan and Kowloon Peninsula. View of Central across the water with the mountain in the background was beautiful. Saw a golden hotel which was fancy even for HK standards. Now that things are properly starting to reopen again the city is getting quite congested; we sat in traffic for half an hour and the streets were completely packed.
Bridge, Central across the water, golden hotel (Golden Pacific I think?) and a busy street in TST

Went to an extremely fancy dim sum restaurant Sunday evening called China Tang. Luckily we had 50% off vouchers, though even with them it came to £30 per person. Restaurant was on the top floor of a mall along the waterfront. Everything in there was white - floor, tables, chairs - and it felt very much like a palace. Food was absolutely delicious; dumplings, spring rolls and meatballs. Highlight was lobster dumplings and honey roast pork fillet. Similar to the UK 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme, HK had given out 50% off vouchers for many of these expensive restaurants so there were huge queues outside them. Luckily one of our mates knew the owner of this restaurant so we were able to get a table. Poor form how it took us seven weeks in HK to have our first dim sum meal, though it was definitely worth the wait.
Restaurant lobby and the table overlooking the water

Had another taste of the high-life after the meal. Our mate has a membership at the prestigious Pacific Club so we went and got drinks there. Everybody living in HK has heard of the Pacific Club so it was a cool experience to go there. Don't think I'd enjoy going there regularly though, even if I did have the choice; far too expensive and fancy.
Pacific Club and the view from our table

Thrilled that rules are being relaxed quite a bit now; last Friday gathering size was increased from 2 to 4 and people could eat out till 10 rather than 9. School's plan to reopen and bring pupils back into the school has been approved too. Finally we're getting some certainty and have a date to look forward to, as opposed to the 'sooner rather than later' mindset that left me feeling a little bit uncomfortable. Think we're going to try and visit one of the islands this weekend; there are some very nice country parks and nature reserves on them. Got to make the most of this last weekend before all the kids come back and we're even more busy than we are now.


Posted by David Zhao 13:26 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged dim sum

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