Thursday, February 28, 2008

King Kong

The city of Hong Kong is the biggest we have seen. Considering it is the financial capital of Asia, one could easily expect it to be, but it is just massive. It comes with a price, of course, the air pollution here is awful. There is rarely a clear day as you can see in the pics from the top of Victoria Peak. That being said, it is also a lot of fun. You can try your fighting techniques against the mast of fighting, Bruce Lee (or Ree). It is sensory overload in some ways, thousands of people most of which make our 5'7 frames seem like NBA players; neon lights at night just about everywhere; strange night markets; and double-decker buses hauling ass. A city to visit for sure!

Our friend Sam, who is a writer has been kind enough to lend us some words about a "custom" here. It is something that is hard to describe, but I think he has done it well:
"You're supposed to refrain from adverse judgment when travelling to new and exotic places and to accept that different peoples find different practices acceptable...Table manners are the first thing. The constant open-mouthed mastication I can live with. Ditto the nosepicking and regular dinner-table hand down the pants. It's the spitting of pieces of unwanted gristle – which constitutes pretty much the entirety of a cheap Chinese meal – in a perfect parabola within inches of the visitor's face that really gets my blood up. But the spitting during meals is nothing – nothing – compared to the veritable celebration of expectoration that goes on absolutely everywhere else. The Chinese spit in the street. They spit in a car. They spit on the floor of a bus or in a hotel foyer. They spit on the wall of the train station. And worst of all, they'll spit on the wall of your sleeping compartment on the train. (This, by the way, is even done by the sartorial elite in soft sleeper class, heading from one city to another for a business trip. The mind boggles at what it must be like further back in the train. Like standing in a saliva rainstorm without an umbrella I suppose).

The spitting itself isn't even the worst part. It's the preliminary cacophonic wind-up. Whereas the Indians (world-class spitters, themselves, it must be credited) measure social status using a complicated and ancient caste system based on ethnicity, profession and skin colour, the Chinese – to their own credit – have simplified the system wholesale. Social status in the Middle Kingdom is directly proportionate to the volume, duration and raspiness of the phlem-finding process. It begins in the lungs, whereupon the truly aristocratic spitter can, in an impressive display of only four or five hacks, raise five ounces of honeyish snot to his larynx, hold it there, while using his tongue and teeth to produce a lump of blackish fluid the size of a tennis ball before hurling it through a curled tongue at the nearest wall, piece of furniture or mortified backpacker. From there, he will watch it glissade languidly down the wall (or furniture or mortified backpacker) admiring its leisurely track downward (the highest socio-economic stratum can manufacture such viscosity that it'll descend so slowly as to be undetectable in movement – like a medieval pane of glass which is thicker at the bottom than the top). The peasant spitter is profoundly incapable of such virtuosity – no doubt why he remains a peasant. He probably had a job interview in the 1980s, enthusiastically spat in the face of the interviewer but it splashed down onto the prospective employer’s coat instead of clinging impressively to his nose."

And that is how it's really done. Quite amazing. We have had a blast in China, now it's off to SEAsia for some 6 weeks in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. We are looking forward to getting out of some of the most populated cities in the world to a slightly slower paced environment.


1 comment:

Ann said...

Hi Kate & Phil,
Have loved your China/Hong Kong news and pics! Now you're off to some more fascinating countryside--& food. It's a gorgeous spring day here - watched a red-tail hawk swoop down for some b'fast from among 6 available mallard ducks.
Lv. March 5 for Morocco --getting excited. Hope you have great times in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
Love, Aunt Ann