If it’s Saturday, this must be Hong Kong…and time for another postcard from our deployed correspondent:
So I am in one of my father’s favorite ports and a few of the old WestPac sailors favorite ports as well. Hong Kong. Home of fast action films, mainland Asian banking, and an every changing landscape. To start with quick history lesson. Hong Kong has been one of the major ports along the Chinese coast since the time of Neolithic man. It became a British Colony 1840’s and US cargo vessels along with US Navy warships have been regularly arriving in the city since the 1850’s. Hong Kong was the major embarking station for a US Sailor coming to serve out time on the Yangtze Patrol. After the war Hong Kong was one of those ports that a WestPac sailor savored to visit. Being that one the main streets it have a very modern and western feel to it, but with the right navigation and gumption you could find your way down an alley way and go back about forty years (or more) and arrive in the China that was describe in Pearl S. Buck novels and pulp novel stories they grew up on. Even today you can find some of that as well. In 1997 the British turned over to the People’s Republic of China the city. As part of the deal Hong Kong was treated as a special case territory where it could still live its capitalist dream but report everything it did to the Beijing Government. Since the city was officially found as well it has been constantly under construction. Whether that is filling in portions of the harbor to create more land for people to tearing down classic sections of the city to rebuild it with more modern buildings, it is very much a city in constant change.
The first thing to be said is that when we pulled in the weather in the region turned to snot. We experienced fog, low clouds, drizzle and temps that didn’t seem to want to break the low 50’s in the day time. I guess the karma of me crowing about the nice weather at the last couple of ports has come back to bite me in the arse. Thank god, I was smart enough to purchase a coat while I was in Thailand. It had only cost me about 5 dollar US for it, but it was wonderful to get on the liberty launch for the ride out and not be one of the shivering masses on the launch. A couple of the guys I was with on the first day we made a bee line for the closes shopping center and they bought a couple of thermal liners or fleece pull overs to tide them through. After that the first popular destination we visited was the Wan Chai district. This is one of the three primary nightlife districts in the city. It has a number of restaurants ranging from traditional Chinese city fare next to upscale steak house like Ruth Christ’s franchise. Also dotted through out are various bars were business folks, ex-pats, and sailors are able to pour themselves into for a good time. Also dotted through out the region are various dance clubs, though after walking into a couple I know them by their more popular European term “Buy-me-drinkee” bars. Basically a pretty Asian girl will be your friend for as long as your able to feed her overprice drinks. Had to rescue a couple of more younger guys out on their own liberty from walking in as rich sailors and walking out as poor sailors. At the end of the night we were sitting in some bar called the Doghouse singing along with a couple of UK bankers to bad drinking songs.
The second day in town, I left with a few guys early in the day and we spent it trying to find our way to some of the upscale shopping on Hong Kong Island. We mainly found our ways over in what is called the Central District. What is really cool about this area is that it is the upscale shopping and low scale at the same time. Walk along a few of the main streets and you run across Hugo Boss, Tag Hauer, Armani, H&M stores and then you look down some of the alley ways between these you run across street peddlers that have set up stalls selling everything themed a certain way. For example we ran across an alley way that was selling costumes and costume gear. Which a couple of the guys were slapping themselves because pirates seem to be the popular theme in these street peddlers wares. The guys that were slapping themselves were shellbacks and wish they could have had some of this gear to make up their costumes. After doing some window shopping, we found our way over to Lang Kwai Fong district. This is the other popular nightlife spot. Most of these are more upscale then what you might find in Wan Chai and to top it off there are no girlie clubs. So it is another popular destination for the Western Tourist, mainly cause these are nicer places. We found a nice and quiet Irish bar to spend the night. Listening to a house guitarist play some nice ballads like “Patriot Game”, “Long Way to Tippernary”, “The Girl I left Behind”, and some straight guitar instrumental stuff. It was great, drank some Strongbox or Bulmers cider and played darts until we decided it was time to go home. After which it was a quick and cheap 20HK dollar taxi ride back to fleet landing.
The third day I woke up much later then I wanted to, I think it was cause of the cider I drank the night before. Most of the guys I normally would have gone out with had left for the day. So I just hung out on Fenwick Pier at the Servicemen’s Guide Association Club. The SGA is a private group that produce nice little booklets that welcome sailors to the Hong Kong. This place is a combination rec center and shopping center. They have a three store building at the foot of the pier. In there one can make a phone call home. Turn over their personal laundry to a trusty laundry service in town, mail some of their larger exotic goods home. There is a tailor shop were you can get yourself a “number 1 100% silk suit” or any tailoring you need done in 24 hours. There are a few outposts for some decent jewelry shops represented there, and finally a small book store and convenience store so you load up on bottle water and a few magazines for the boat ride back. The other cool thing about this place is they have a decent restaurant on premise and a bar/pub on the premises as well. It was interesting to walk around it and check out all the different gear that one could shop for. After getting a late lunch/dinner, got back on the launch to head back to the ship.
The only downside about Hong Kong is the use of these liberty launches. The harbor’s waters are very choppy and these are flat bottomed service boats that roll and pitch like a drunken sailor. So it makes for a fun ride in even when your sober and a worse ride when your drunk. That is why the biggest suggestion to everyone was come back early and sober up at the pier before getting on these launches. Most of them were smaller then what I have been use to while visiting 2nd or 6th fleet ports, but there were more of them so you could expect a boat just about every ten to fifteen minutes. The downside is that when there is a decent chop, which seems to be every time a major cargo hauler goes in our out past the common anchorage point of the carrier, the Bosun delays the arrival of the launches until the chop dies down a little bit.
Overall, I think Hong Kong is on my short list of ports that I have visited in the last twelve years and six deployments that I really would spend the money on coming back to visit on my terms. It really seems to have just that flair which would make it a fun place to visit with the wife.
Article Series - Postcards from Deployment
- Postcards from Deployment
- Postcards From Deployment: HOA
- Postcards from Deployment: Doin’ the Ditch
- Postcards from Deployment: “The Song That Never Ends”
- Postcards from Deployment: The Day After the Day Before
- Postcards from Deployment: Deployment Stress
- Postcards from Deployment: Of Midpoints and Ground Hog Day(s)
- “Now Hear This — Mail Call, Mail Call…”
- Postcards from Deployment: Now Liberty Call – Asia (Eat Your Heart Out Skippy-san!)
- Postcards from Deployment: Of Wogs and Shellbacks…
- Postcards From Deployment: Now Liberty Call — Hong Kong
- Postcards From Deployment — Oh Those Cruise Mustaches!
- Postcards from Deployment: Homeward Bound
- Postcards From Deployment: Almost Home