Benjie and I are in China on vacation. I'll attend an international chestnut meeting in Beijing starting the 25th.
Our plane from Chicago was delayed 20 hours by heavy rain plus mechanical problems with the 747. But the delayed flight left at 9 a.m. Chicago time, which may have made the 15 1/2 hour trip easier, since we might have been awake that long under normal circumstances.
We got to be good friends with several of the people on board the plane. Shared misery brings people together! United Airlines put us up in a nice hotel in Chicago.
On the way over Benjie and I watched 'Casino Royale', some early 'I Love Lucy' shows on DVD, and one episode of Miss Marple. We flew over the North Pole and down through Siberia and Mongolia on the way to China.
Hong Kong was hot and hazy when we landed -- nearly 90 degrees at noon local time. My old college roommate Dean Tjosvold called us and recommended we take a local double-decker bus into town. The public transportation system is very extensive and pretty sophisticated. You can buy an "Octopus Card" good for 3 days travel, and you can press the card up against a sensor while it's still in your wallet. They are developing a system to give a full body scan so you don't even have to take the card out of your wallet or backpack.
We're staying at a Holiday Inn Express on the edge of Hong Kong's Time Square. We're on the island of Hong Kong, which is just part of the former British colony, which took up several islands as well as part of the mainland (The "New Territories"). The British seized this area so they could import opium to China. They wanted lots of goods from China (tea, silks, etc.) in the 1800's, but the Chinese didn't want anything from the British and refused to trade. So the British got them hooked on opium, and then the Chinese wanted something in return for their goods. The Wikipedia account of the Opium Wars is at:
See -- those poppies from Afghanistan have been important for hundreds of years!
Dean met us about 5 p.m. local time and gave us a tour of the markets, where live fish were flailing around, to the tonier areas where Japanese chocolates fetch a high price. We've seen very few Occidentals. Dean then took up up to the top of a high hill where he lived for 14 years while his kids were growing up. His two boys now work in the states (San Francisco and Boston), while his two girls attend Carleton College in his native Minnesota at a whopping $48,000 each tuition per year. When Dean and I went to Princeton 1963-1967, tuition was only $1900 per semester. Dean said he actually came out of college with more money than he went in with, because of the jobs and other assistance from the university. He teaches conflict management in the business school at one of the local universities.
We ended up taking a ferry across the harbor from Hong Kong island to Kowloon on the mainland about 10 p.m. The lights were beautiful. Because of our plane delay, we missed the mid-Autumn festival with its display of lights, but a lot of the displays were still up (see lights in some of the photos). The full moon was gorgeous over the harbor and surrounding hills.
Today Benjie and I are headed for Hong Kong Disneyland. OK, this is not really a Chinese thing, but we went to EuroDisney in Paris in 1992 and had a great time.