“It’s the honeymoon period.”
This is what Alex and I were told a few days before leaving on our trip. Our amazing and helpful mentor Mr. Lee had been on plenty of bike tours himself.
“The first week or two should be relaxing. Spend a little more on food. Bike slowly. Stay at some cool places. Enjoy it. Just ease into the bike touring lifestyle.”
So how did our honeymoon go?
We flew. We landed. With our packs and boxed up bikes we were ready to take on Hong Kong. I didn’t do much research so I didn’t know what to expect. But our shuttle bus dropped us off in quite a nice area. Kind of fancy actually. High end hotels and expensive department stores were in every direction. Our destination, Chungking Mansions, was just a block away. Perfect.
“You need a watch?”
“I’m good man.”
“You want a suit?”
“No thanks, I’m okay.”
“You need a room?”
“Already booked one, thank you”
“You want some weed?”
Okay, so maybe not so fancy. After pushing through the wall of hagglers and entering “The Mansion” doors, we finally saw what was behind the mask. Hustlers trying to unload knockoff phones, iPads, sim cards and other electronics lined the walls. More drug dealers were scattered between them. It was dirty, loud, and had a smell that seemed to change with each step we took. And here comes the meat, Keal and Alex, fresh but weak looking from their plush lives in Korea, carrying packs full of new gear and boxed up touring bikes. I think I could actually hear bystanders licking their lips, clearly deciding which one of us threaten and rob first.
We had no idea how to navigate the maze runner structure, which turned out to be numerous mini hostels crammed into one building. But after a few bouts with tiny elevators and a couple hikes in blood ridden stairwells, we finally arrived at our destination. We dumped our things into a small lobby while a security camera watched us. There were four locked metal cage doors, each of which had a second locked door behind it. While it’s nice to know there is this level of security where we were staying, it worried me there was an actual need for it. The guy at the front desk helped us check in and told us we could leave our bikes in the lobby, but we insisted to keep them in the room with us. He laughed. And when we saw the room, we knew why.
I know the tricks that can be pulled with lighting, photoshop, and a wide angle lens. And I knew the place I had booked was going to be small and a little cheaper than other options. But boy was I fooled. It’s a bit like using online dating where the person looks like a part-time model in their pictures but you finally decide to meet and you’re shaking the hand of a female version of Steve Buscemi. The room was not as advertised. Two small beds with inches of space between them laid beneath a soul sucking fluorescent light. A cockroach scattered off my pillow. Ah, exactly what we left Korea for.
I could bore you with the rest of our stay in Hong Kong where I got food poisoning, bed bugs, psychological damage from a faulty air conditioner, and bullied by a man at ‘The Dehli Club’. But why not try to keep things positive? In the end everyone was really nice, I ate some delicious food, and enjoyed the unique atmosphere Hong Kong had to offer.
A hell of a way to start our trip. Hopefully we keep it up. After all, it is the honeymoon period.