Hong Kong: 1st. Stop – Southeast Asia Dive Tour

Posted by on Jan 5, 2019 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

It took thirty hours, three planes, a bus, and two taxis to make the trip to a smelly, cramped, shabby, dreadful hostel with a bed that squeaked. After one night in that hellhole, it was clear that new arrangements would have to be made. Upon awakening, I managed to get most of my money back, and managed to find a beautiful luxury room with a view for a reasonable price. Stephen on the front desk even upgraded me to a quiet premium queen room with a view on the 19th, floor. Once again flexibility and my problem theory has paid off big time. Talk about the agony and the ecstasy.

Regardless of my current creature comforts, feeding myself has been a bit of a challenge. There are seemingly no decent places to eat within a half mile of me. Compound that with the fact that I am on a low carb diet to drop the weight I have accumulated over the past four years, and you have a recipe for disaster. A lot of Chinese food is just loaded with carbs.

I even took the metro to an area that allegedly had food. Once there I found nothing but high end shopping, banks, concrete, and skyscrapers. I wandered about “hangry” and cursed my way through a three mile walk. Finally a restaurant with some basic roasted chicken presented itself, and I ingested enough nutrients to get me back to my hotel sanctuary without completely losing my mind.

Fortunately my room has a fridge so I filled it with ham, cheeses, and berries to chew on. Based upon my initial experience, the people have been very kind, but I have yet to find any redeeming features to this city other than that. I think this may be due to the fact that deep down I am not really fond of BIG CITIES. I love my hotel room, but so far I’m not really feeling it. Of course, that could be due to the fact that I have grown soft during the time at my daughter’s place, that may have made the transition more difficult this year.

One thing you learn during long term travel is that your attitude toward a country or city can shift dramatically during your stay. Perhaps my shitty attitude has to do with being separated from my daughter, son-in-law, and my two granddaughters. God forbid my wandering ways have been compromised by the pull of grandchildren and family. Or maybe I’m just jet-lagged and have a bug up my bum.

A trip to Asia is usually a bit challenging at the beginning of a World Tour, especially a clusterf#ck like Hong Kong. You can feel like you’re on a different planet, and traveling solo only adds to feelings of alienation. That’s why I originally booked a hostel because you have other people to connect with. Thankfully, I have made contact with a local who is a big supporter of a YouTube channel that I also enjoy. Hopefully I can pull my thumb out of my ass, and make good use of my time here, as well as post some good pictures and content. Until that time I’ll play catch up on three months of blogging.

Of course the past three months didn’t really involve any travel, but they contained an adventure that took me completely by surprise. I have been a grandfather for a little over three years. It is not something I have ever aspired to, given my grudging acceptance of children in general. Under those circumstances you may wonder how I ever came by a daughter? I married her mother and adopted her at the age of eighteen. It came as a great surprise to me that I have now become one of those guys who shows people pictures of his grandkids. Frankly, other than the benefit a little wisdom and learning the subtle art of not giving a f#ck, I think being a grandfather is one of the only benefits of growing old.

I finally managed to find a bunch of restaurants on a street nearby that a different desk clerk failed to mention. My nutrition needs satisfied and jet lag mitigated, I have gotten my travel legs back as well as the smile on my face. Hell, after four years on the road, I am able to bounce back pretty quickly. The low carb diet may have contributed to my false start. Basking in the glory of my new digs, I’m ready to hop on the Metro and explore Kowloon. Onward and upward. Let the fifth straight year of travel begin!  

LAX – Awaiting my flight out of the US bound for South Korea where I will jump on a flight to Hong Kong.

Upon arrival, I spotted some duck and goose, grabbed a seat at a table with some locals, and chowed down on some tasty roasted meats.


In Hong Kong they keep the holiday decorations for the whole month of January. Christmas music even continues plays in restaurants so if you don’t get quite enough of Xmas, head over to Hong Kong.

The Shabby Hop Inn on Mody – This hostel was total rubbish, and I advise visitors to avoid hostels in Hong Kong altogether. The common area was a seriously scruffy affair. The bathroom had  standing water by the sinks, and it’s one of those places where you can’t flush toilet paper because the pipes are decrepit. So you have to put the soiled paper in a little garbage can. I suppose I can be grateful they weren’t squat toilets.

Then you’re crammed into an inhospitable dorm room complete with the bed of a thousand squeaks. I just couldn’t get out of this buggery place fast enough.



ECO TREE HOTEL – Stephen welcomes me to my new home in Hong Kong. It’s a three star property that feels like a four star. This guy is my new champion of the hospitality industry. I used to be the night manager at a 650 room resort, and I think that the Mandarin Oriental or the Four Seasons would be lucky to have him. He helped turned things around for me here in Hong Kong, and I am grateful to him for helping to kick off World Tour 2019 on the right note.


Home Sweet Home for ten days.

The Hunan restaurant on the third floor of my building served up a nice pork belly with vegetables.


LOCAL TRAM – The trams here are like a narrow double decker bus.



D&G – Hong Kong is retail shopping central, and you can find just about every brand of anything you could want here. Even the brand knock offs in the street markets are heavily represented. Just what a retail junkie like me needs.




The malls here are drop dead gorgeous boasting every exclusive, luxury brand you could possibly desire, as well as many you have likely never heard of.

The magnificent interior spaces lull you into a false sense of solvency.





This 3D Mural in the Hong Kong metro depicts everyday life of the average local here in the city, which is quite a contrast to the towering skyscrapers and polished shopping malls. I am on one such streets, and it is nice to live in a quieter more authentic part of the city. Granted my hotel is posh, but once I step out the door, I’m in the heart of the dried fish district. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL – On the heels of the abominable, bombing Star Wars: A Solo Story, another candidate for the trash heap, looms on the horizon. This image also culled from the walls of the metro, features a joyless and wooden actress whose performance is sure to match the pure inadequacy of what’s his name in Solo. The people of Hong Kong and China are sure to stay away from this one.





Hong Kong John & The Travel Zealot – Two cinema and sci-fi aficionados rendezvous for good food and quality conversation. East and West connect over common interests, and mutual membership in the same sci-fi, pop culture and entertainment website. We had known of one another for six months. I figured what the hell, why not get together for a meal. After all we would not be at a loss for things to talk about.

John pulled out all the stops and ordered multiple dishes in all the major meat groups, as well as a jelly fish dish. Then he snatched up the exorbitant check and paid for the whole production. For those of you that know me, I’m a gift-giving fool, but I’m not so skilled at the receiving thing. John seems to be teaching me a lesson in accepting an abundant feast, including educating me on a number of aspects of Chinese/Hong Kong culture. 


88 – You’ll see this number on a lot of buildings and business since the number 8 is quite lucky in this neck of the woods. In fact, the place I would come to buy my glasses in Bangkok was an optical chain called Optical 88.



In Kowloon, there is a street with lots of different types of pet stores.

I had a nice turtle like this growing up. There were some real beauties in all sizes.

MOP SYSTEM DEMO – Just like at your local county fair.


STAR WART – They can’t even sell the Star Wars stuff back in the States, and God knows that the Chinese and Asia have pretty much outright rejected the franchise. The real irony is that it was the Asian character that sent the audience heading for the exits. You would think that Lucasfilm would have made sure to ensure that Rose Tico would be a character that an Asian audience could embrace.

Instead, they chose an average looking Vietnamese/American girl who is clueless about her own culture of origin and then proceeded to give her bad hair and a crappy wardrobe. I personally didn’t see “The Last Jedi” but a friend informed me that she rescued some horselike creatures instead of focusing on the humanoids. This insulted Chinese sensibilities to such a degree that audiences all over China left the theater angry and shouting. Word spread fast and “The Last Jedi” was essentially dead on arrival. The Chinese value family above all, and Tico favoring the horse creatures over the humans was taken as a rejection of family.

Never has a single minor annoying character caused so much trouble since the Jar Jar Binks debacle. In fact, it was Jar Jar that put me off Star Wars a long, long time ago. I returned briefly for the less offensive “The Force Awakens”, but when I heard what they had done to Luke, Han, and Chewie in “The Last Jedi”, I called it a day.

I even had the thing for free on a Japan Air flight, but I couldn’t get past seeing Luke Skywalker milking a space manatee to get his daily dose of green milk. Seeing that nauseating green liquid running down the sides of his mouth is something you just can’t get out of your head. That and him tossing his lightsaber over his shoulder like an empty beer can. Of course, that was just the tip of the iceberg in that shitshow of a movie.







KANGOL SOUP – Here is an embarrassing moment with my signature hat. Like Samuel L. Jackson I’m a big fan of these lids. I was horrified at what sort of filth I was carrying around the world on the top of my head. Crikey, customs agents on any number of occasions, could have turned me away based on the potential contagion being carried willy nilly across their borders in my chosen headgear.

You’re looking at the contents of two years wear, and shockingly it took six full sink rinses to get to clear water again. The funny bit is that the rest of my clothes are cleaned regularly, and I had occasionally thought about the hat but the can got kicked way down the road.

One of the advantages of maintaining a friendship with an ex-wife is that they are very handy for letting you know about things that others won’t tell you about. Women seem to have a keener sense of smell. Like people who let you know you have spinach on your teeth, about a month ago she delicately let me know that some sort of mildly , unpleasant odor was possibly emanating from my clothes. I was mystified and clueless that my beloved beret had become a toxic playground.

I was grateful for the information Yelena shared so I increased the frequency of costume changes. I also feared that I was experiencing early-onset “old people smell,” but the fact is I’m a good decade away from that undesirable possibility. After considering that now was the time for cleaning the hat, I was faced with the nightmare you see before you.

To quote a potentially horrified Samuel L. Jackson faced with the same crises. “I am sick and f##king tired of all this muthaf##cking soup in my muthaf##king hat.” Of course, Jackson tends to wear white Kangols that immediately show the dirt so he has thankfully been spared this indignity thus far. Then again, he probably discards them once a month.

I suppose if I were stranded somewhere without food during my travels, the Kangol Soup could save my life, but I already keep ample nuts and water in my small pack. So the case of the mystery smell is solved. The most upsetting part is that my granddaughter, Mia, loved to steal my hat and wear it. Fortunately, she has a strong immune system and is actually prone to bringing a variety of viruses home from preschool to share with the rest of us. 

So my thanks to Yelena for bringing my attention to the issue, and being a catalyst for the solution to a problem that left unchecked could have set off a serious global health crisis. Imagine being the harbinger of the Kangol Flu. This is not something for which I wish to be remembered. Maybe when I’m back in San Diego in April, I’ll visit my friend Suzan in LA. , and go and cast my Kangol into the La Brea Tar Pits where a part of me will remain long after the Earth has cast humanity aside.

PEEL FRESCO – This little jazz venue is one of the best-kept secrets in Soho in Hong Kong Central. The majority of members of the band had played in Ronnie Scott’s, the finest jazz club in London. Tickets for Ronnie’s run about $50 and up, tickets for an evening of music at Peel Fresco are $20 which is a good price for this kind of quality of entertainment in Hong Kong.





Staunton Street Cafe & Balcony – I was fortunate to be seduced by a steak platter in a photograph since I was really starving.







A little punk served up in a basement to spice up the evening.








And when I get excited
My little China girl says
Oh, Baby, just you shut your mouth
She says, sh-sh-shhh

-David Bowie-




I’ve always had a thing for funny or sexy ads in the metros of the world.


SALTED FISH – These dried fish are meant to steamed back into a re-hydrated state for consumption. The other dried products are predominantly used in soup.


My favorite fruit vendor bags cherries without his signature cigarette dangling from his lips.



This chubby cat appreciates being ensconced in the dried fish district of Hong Kong.

SHRIMPSTRAVAGANZA – Dried shrimp ofS all sizes.



SEA CUCUMBERS – I think you can see how they got their names since they look like well-ordered pickle jars.


Never did dried scallops look so good.












HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – What a beauty. I look forward to my next encounter.



  1. Z
    January 12, 2019

    A “KANGOL SOUP” – you are too funny!
    I guess “A Fish Rots From the Head Down” ha-ha-ha.
    Glad you have it resolved!

  2. The Travel Zealot
    January 12, 2019

    Hey Z, You alerted me something was amiss. Who would imagine it was perched atop my head! It’s a good thing I dealt with it before the rest of me rotted away. I think I will head over to Macau and purchase a new one today.

    So guys, if you be a single solo traveler, make sure and have a conscientious and upfront female friend who will let you know what’s what. In my case, it’s just another advantage of not letting divorce ruin a friendship.

    Yelena, My hat is off to you!!!

  3. Stephen Cheng
    January 15, 2019

    Hey! Friend. Is me, Stephen. Thanks for your hospitality. It is appreciate to meet you in these days. The photo at dried fish market is awesome and how dorable the cat is! Finally, I have my vacation to go to Japan now. Hope you could enjoy your next trip to Thailand and all the best!

  4. jason
    February 1, 2019

    Hey John, Really enjoyed your first blog of 2019, You are back baby! I have about 30 hats in rotation so they all stay pretty pristine. That dried fish is impressive to look at but how is it to taste? I do not think I would like it. Ok on to Thailand. You are killing it so far,

  5. The Travel Zealot
    February 2, 2019

    Hey Jason,
    I really appreciated that. It means a lot. I felt as if I had gotten off to a good start. I’m really enjoying myself as well. The dried seafood is mostly used for soup, but the whole fish are usually rehydrated. They are salted so I guess you have to gain a taste for it. I wouldn’t eat the stuff, but it certainly makes for good blog fodder. Many foods here are quite foreign to our palate, so I stick with the old favorites like Peking duck and such.

  6. BigD
    February 10, 2019

    John, I stayed in Hong Kong a couple days on my trip to China. The size and density of all those skyscrapers right on the water really left a lasting impression. It was beautiful in it’s way but only at a distance, I can’t say I felt a connection to any personality in the city aside from the big name brands stuck to every surface. I am glad I spent 2 days there, for me it was probably the perfect amount. That said I wouldn’t mind going back and checking out that dried foods/ pickles area.

    I remember seeing those StarWars knockoffs there but I had no idea the reaction to Rose Tico. It’s amazing how mega corporations can blunder when trying to appear like they care about inclusivity. The new movies are painful to watch at times. The Luke Skywalker drinking the milk and dropping the lightsaber is ridiculous. I think I read somewhere that Mark Hamill had to pretend like he was playing a completely different character since he felt no connection to the original Skywalker. Oh well. Hopefully the economic reality will push Disney in a direction where we can start having action movies that don’t require every color of the rainbow be shoehorned in to make the plot hypothetically not offend anyone.

    This line you wrote about being “crammed into an inhospitable dorm room complete with the bed of a thousand squeaks”, brought me back to so many hostels throughout Europe. I don’t know if I’m a synesthete or just having flashbacks from my times in Amsterdam but I could feel those squeaks and creaks in my bones reading that. Well done.

  7. The Travel Zealot
    February 11, 2019

    Big D,
    Lucasfilm and Kathleen Kennedy managed to infuriate half of their fanbase with The Last Jedi and also killed the enormous Chinese market with a stupid, minor character. My friend makes very funny and erudite videos that literally lay waste to the current Star Wars debacle and the horrid, current Star Trek Discovery nightmare. Go check out Dicktor Van Doomcock on YouTube if you need a good laugh. Go for the videos and not the live streams.

    I don’t do squeaky beds, and I would be damned if I was going to start my year in one.

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