On Saturday, August 15, 2015 we started the adventure that we have been preparing for six months; our trip to Hong Kong. We left for Hong Kong to live and study there for no less than five months. This series of travelogues consists of seven parts. In this blog you can read about a visit to IKEA, a day with Steve and our meeting with Pimmetje.
Moving to our permanent address
We wrote the previous travelogue late at night on 19 August 2015. The day after, we would move to our permanent address with Alta’s sister,because Alta and his family would return on the 20th from their holiday in the Netherlands. To make a long story short; that did not happen. They decided to come back a day later without informing us. No problem! We unpacked our suitcases and promised ourselves that it would be our last night in the super small children’s beds at Alta’s home.
Don’t get us wrong, we were taken care off brilliantly, only the rock-hard mattresses of 1.70 meters long were literally on a plank instead of a slatted base. We really did not expect an Auping box spring with memory foam mattress and electrically adjustable head side, but no matter how hard we tried, we did not manage to fall asleep. Not sleeping is always very annoying, you probably know that too; that at a certain point you stay awake because you only think “I really have to go to sleep now otherwise it won’t be able to do anything tomorrow”, and with that worry you stay awake for another half hour. Well, that is what happened. Unfortunately, the other day some other problems arose from our accumulating sleepless nights.
Apparently tropical heat, and exceptionally vigorous exercise don’t go well if you don’t sleep. You still have some kind of vacation there right? – I imagine you’re thinking more than 9,000KM away. I’ll explain that in a minute, first I have to write about the heat. Because something really needs to be said about that. So, exactly how hot is it here then? On average, the wind chill temperature is around 42 degrees Celsius, with a humidity of about 90%. If you have ever been on holiday by car to a warm area, then you have probably felt that blow when you suddenly got off the air conditioning with 30 degrees after a few hours of air conditioning. Well, this heat is not anything like that.
A better comparison is the following; ever opened an oven at 250 degrees with your face directly above it? That you quickly withdraw your head and feel if your eyebrows are still on it? It’s something similar to that. Since all buildings and public transport have air conditioning – which in itself is very nice -, but they cool down to arctic temperatures here, you have that blow everywhere you walk out. You feel your eyes dry out and your throat sting when you breathe in that scorching hot air for the first time when leaving a building or the bus.
Well, why do we think we have been doing extremely strenuous physical exertion? That is because we did move to our new address a day later. Once we arrived we got a tour, after which Nadia almost burst in tears, and Goort immediately started calculating what we could spend per month on a hostel or something like that. The tour went something like this; “You can press this button, but not the rest because then something breaks / something explodes / you get electrocuted. Oh-yes, and most of the cockroaches are dead, no, those aren’t feces, and that fungus isn’t dangerous.” After our first night of sleep on a double version of – yes – another stone hunebed of 1.70m long, we had a difficult time.
A visit to IKEA
We then decided that, even though we were promissed a different quality of accomodation before our departure, we could not complain given the hospitality we received. We then traveled to our all-time savior; IKEA. There we bought; the strongest all-purpose cleaner we could find, cloths, two tables, a cupboard, 3 plastic storage boxes, bedding, pans, cutlery, plates, etc. Just a complete household, since this was much cheaper than renting something for four months. We also immediately ordered a soft top mattress, which will arrive next Monday.
But then.. everything has to be taken home without a car… Do you now understand the exceptionally heavy physical exertion? Two hours later we arrived home with pinched shoulders and fingers, cramps and blisters. We then first put all the junk that filled the room, with approval from the owner of course, in plastic storage boxes and stuffed it into another room. Then, we scrubbed all the dead animals, including feces and plaque from the ceiling, walls and floor.
An ode to Hong Kong
Okay, the above piece is one lament; it is (too) warm, the room that costs us practically nothing is too dirty, the beds are too hard, is there anything positive? Yes of course! It’s FAN-TAAAAAS-TIC over here. We just know that it is fun and entertaining for you to read about all our difficulties here. It would be boring if everything was easy. We just know you want to gloat. And of course we like to write honestly about what we experience, with both the pleasant and the less pleasant experiences.
From now on an ode to Hong Kong and its inhabitants, in our new section; that’s awesome!
First of all Miss Choi, Alta’s sister we live with. She doesn’t speak much English, we hardly ever see her, but when you see her she smiles and shouts “Hello”. So we don’t have a rental contract, pay almost nothing, and she is okay with everything.
A day with Steve
A man lives next to Miss Choi; Steve. Steve, like Alta, is a high school teacher and offered to show us around in the area. At 8:45 am we got into his car and started a great fun tour of more than three hours through Yuen Long, including a delicious breakfast. Yuen Long is the place where we live. He showed us the real local beauties that the tourists hardly ever see and was a walking history book.
We have visited temples and a walled community, which are usually walled to keep out strangers. Then Steve took us to the school where he works, where we turned out to be quite an attraction. Each room was proudly presented, and even the principal came to visit us even though it is still a holiday here. When we saw the girls’ basketball team train – the pride of the school – a question-and-answer session was spontaneously set up. Everyone sat around us and very shyly asked questions to the captain of the team, who then asked us very shyly as well. Then of course a photo or 10 had to be taken with the white foreign couple; one for the hallway, one for the school newspaper, etc.
Then, in the evening we had a delicious barbecue at Steve’s place where a French exchange student joined as well.
What is special about Hong Kong
What else is so special about Hong Kong? People can queue up here, that’s really something they are good at. Are you waiting for the bus? Then the first person waiting is in the front, and others queue up neatly. This also applies to the metro, the supermarket, the restaurant, etc. Furthermore, everyone is very friendly and if they can speak two words of English, they shout from back to front in the bus; “WHERE FROM?”. Not to be forgotten is that, despite the fact that Hong Kong is known for its skyline and one tall building is glued to another, there is also a lot of nature here. About 70% of Hong Kong is a nature reserve consisting of beautiful green mountains with the most tropical flora and fauna. You can actually find everything there; banana trees, palm trees, but also pine trees, it is actually very diverse. Have you ever seen dragon fruit? It is all over the markets and looks like a made-up fruit from a Harry Potter movie.
Our meeting with Pimmetje
Behind every corner you turn, there is something you can be amazed about, whether it is very beautiful, strange or scary. How do you mean scary? Well, Nadia was scared when she walked around the corner of our bathroom and met little Pim for the first time; our house banana spider of about 20 centimeters (approximately 8 inches). Yes, we know how ridiculously big that is. When Goort went to have a look, there was of course nothing to see. Not even after a thorough inspection of the small 2 square meter bathroom.
Through Google we learned that banana spiders do indeed grow to 20 centimeters, are poison spiders, and they hunt snakes and birds. So, if you were already afraid of snakes, this beast will eat them. That is quite a shock, especially since large spiders in the Netherlands often consist of 90% legs and 10% body. According to Nadia, little Pim is different. Little Pim is a fat spider with hairy legs like a tarantula. Between those legs hangs an 8 kilo muscular torso with all devouring hydraulic tusks.
The next morning when Goort walked into the bathroom, little Pim decided to introduce himself to him too. And it is fair to say that Goort was also a bit shocked. Little Pim was in fact the same size as his foot, but looked a bit more dangerous. Little Pim indeed had an impressive torso and it was new to hear a spider walk. His legs tapped on the bathroom tiles as if he had fallen into Astrix and Obelix’s cauldron.
Goort decided – for Nadia – to man up. After thoroughly exploring the escape route, he started walking towards Pim with a wooden stick of 20 centimeters. Goort then managed to hit Pim on one of his legs without Pim biting and separating his hand from his body. As a response, Pim decided to flee while limping at 15 km/h. Oh wait, there was only one escape route, and it was via Goort. In those seconds so much passed Goort’s mind. Goort now spontaneously believes people who say they have seen their entire lives flash by.
It made him think how stupid it was to wear flip-flops and that the door to our bedroom was still open as well. In that long second in which he thought a lot, there was also a kind of automatic physical reflex going on. He stood like a real raver stomping around at a hardcore party. Not really to attack Pim, more to keep his feet off the ground for as long as possible. In that reflex, however, he landed on top of Pim, who fortunately did not bite through the 1cm thick rubber flip flop. Immediately the joy and relief erupted, “it was a small step for me, but a big (crushing) step for mankind”. Now that peace has returned, and every night we ask all the gods, Buddhas and spirits for a Banana spider free day, we can happily lie awake on our wooden shelf.
Studying in Hong Kong
We would also like to inform you in this travel blog that we regularly take the train to the (local) center to try local culinary delights there, some of which are surprisingly delicious and others require four glasses of Coca-Cola to wash down the taste. We also keep discovering beautiful locations where we often take a lot of photos.
So, what about study then? The principal reason of us being here. Study is actually quite fine. Goort’s introduction week, which was not much of a deal, has come to an end. Next Monday the first lessons start, so we’ll see how difficult things will actually be. Nadia’s introduction week starts at the same time as Goort’s first study week, so there is not much to say about that for now.
And in this way we have arrived again at the end of our second travelogue. We will no doubt continue to meet wonderful people, find magical places, and make great memories. We will keep you informed!