The Greens Under The Glass


This blog entry about the events of Sunday, September 12, 2004 was originally posted on September 20, 2004.

DAY 330:  Everybody goes back to work on Monday in Hong Kong.  The movers, the shakers, the wheelers and dealers, Moe, Meg and the 150,000 Filipina maids — everyone except Aviva and me.  While Aviva would eventually look into more productive things to do for her six month stay in Hong Kong with Moe — fundraising for the local Jewish Community Center, possibly teaching English or learning Cantonese, planning vacations — this week she would be my tour guide in Hong Kong.  Besides, she wanted to be out of the apartment when the maid came (courtesy of Citigroup) so it wouldn’t seem like she was a loser with nothing to do; the week before she was in and out of the apartment to run errands but always managed to coincidentally be home when Julia the Filipina housekeeper made her daily rounds.

After our usual morning “dueling laptops” session at the dining table that made us look like we were at work (God forbid!), we left the building and went down Peel Street to the crowded downtown area during lunchtime, or “Black Storm,” when all the suits went zipping around for food.  We left the chaos in the canyons of glass and steel, passing St. John’s Cathedral, to one of the oasis’s of the urban jungle:  the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, a little zoo built in 1864 containing flamingos and other caged birds, a jaguar and—

“Uh, wait, I think that’s—” Aviva called to me.

a handrail with no sign to tell me it had been freshly painted

We stopped by a little garden area where all the benches looked like cute fairy-tale animals held them up, and stumbled upon a nearby greenhouse full of many green plants and colorful orchids.  There wasn’t much to it and then went to go explore some more.

“It’s getting hot outside,” I said.

“Now it’s hot?” Aviva said.  True, whenever you’re not in air-conditioning in Hong Kong in September it’s always hot and humid.  Leaving the apartment each morning to the outside was like entering a steam room.

Nearby the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens was another area of green surrounded by glass and concrete, Hong Kong Park, home of a man-made waterfall and a little scenic pond of lily pads and turtles.  It was probably the backdrop of little turtles having sex that prompted the queue of wedding parties lining up for photos.  Up a hill we found the Edward Youde Aviary, a huge walk-in birdcage (picture above) big enough to hold a couple of basketball courts.  Instead of that though was a beautifully landscaped rainforest with elevated pathways reminiscent of an Ewok Village where different tropical birds flew around freely.

The biggest, most obvious section of greenery in central Hong Kong was the big Victoria Peak, the mountain towering higher than any of the corporate buildings on the north shore, sending a symbolic message that nature can and often will be bigger than anything man made — in the bigger picture, greens towered over the glass, not the other way around.  The Peak, as it is often called, was where the rich ex-pats during the days of British occupation lived to escape the heat since the temperature at the higher elevation was often five degrees cooler.  The way up was via the Peak Tram, an old-fashioned trolley that climbed up the hill so you didn’t have to.  At the top was The Peak Tower, holding tourist traps like a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Odditorium and a Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, all inside a building that reminded me of a big watermelon.  There was also one of the many Hong Kong/Singapore-based Pacific Coffee Company cafes — almost always seen next to a location of its rival Starbucks — where we sat out in the air-conditioning to cool off.  (Five degrees cooler was still pretty frigging hot.)  Perhaps it was a bit too much of a cool down because I got a brain freeze from my Cookies And Cream iced coffee drink.

Back out into the steam room we took some pictures of the skyline below and then head off for some more greenery on nearby The Peak Trail that hugged the mountain just under the summit.  We thought the paved hiking trail through tropical vegetation would us up to the very top where the radio tower was, but soon discovered that the trail just looped around the mountain.  A guy told us that the view from just a little farther down the path was just as good and when we found the clearing, it was.  We looked out to the view by a railing that conveniently wasn’t still wet with new paint.

“It’s great that there’s all this green in the middle of the city,” Aviva said.

SUNSET WAS APPROACHING in the west, on the other side of the mountain.  We walked back to the other building by the Peak Tower, the Galleria shopping mall with a rooftop terrace to see the setting sun with a handful of tourists with cameras.  Most of the tourists however were on the other side, waiting for the show to start: the lighting up of the cityscape as the sky got darker.  We plunked our cameras down for overexposed and flashed shots of the city lights with other the amateur photographers.  Meanwhile down below, somewhere in the Citigroup building, Moe was still working at his desk to blend in with his Chinese co-workers who regularly stayed at the office until nine o’clock or later, giving them a couple of overlapping hours to work with the beginning of the day in New York.

Aviva and I arrived back at the apartment at the around same time Moe got there and then we went out for Mexican — yet another one of the selections in Hong Kong’s international restaurant scene.  Aviva and I told Moe about our day wandering the more natural areas of central Hong Kong.  Despite my original notion that central Hong Kong was all buildings and crowded streets, there existed places of green tucked under the cityscape — and a little still left on my hand from the green paint that didn’t fully wash off.

Next entry: The Six Days Between Dawn And Dusk

Previous entry: A Day Away With A Big Buddha

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Comments for “The Greens Under The Glass”

  • Dude - those buildings are CRAZY big - and the two that are behind the pond picture are awesome…

    I think that you made a little journey to the San Diego Zoo… when I was there in early August, I saw turtle porn and also saw a bunch of indoor bird things… hmm… it’s a thought.

    The green inside a city is so important! Nice to have found it…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/20  at  09:12 AM

  • Thanks for the postcard!  Received yesterday from China and only took 10 days.  Looking forward to hearing about Tokyo…Glad you survived the meal of blowfish! How is the sake??? Hot or cold?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/20  at  05:42 PM

  • ROSE:  Hot hot hot!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/20  at  05:58 PM

  • ERIK:  Celebrity Jeopardy: Is the Tea HOT or COLD!

    Love the pictures of Hong Kong, keep them coming! N smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/20  at  06:20 PM

  • HK looks like a cool city.  awesome pics erik!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/20  at  06:34 PM

  • I had no idea Hong Kong had such a beautiful skyline!  Wow.  (I liked the bunny bench too!)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/20  at  06:42 PM

  • yo b….what’s up with that lil beer belly?  haha…you’ll lose it all when you hit india and get some serious runs in the draws…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/20  at  06:51 PM

  • NIKKIJ:  Suck it Trebek.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/20  at  07:11 PM

  • Markyt: that’s funny! hopefully erik got out of his “taking pictures in the bathroom phase” by that time!

    N smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/20  at  07:16 PM

  • I’m still coming back for more. Keep writing.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/20  at  09:51 PM

  • “I’ll take SWORDS for $300.”

    IMHO, HK has the best post-modern skyline in the world, for the following reasons:

    1. Highest concentration of beautiful and unique towers (per capita).

    2. Best location between the mountains and the harbour.

    3. Best vantage points, from Kowloon, the harbour, or the Peak.

    4. The lights! Did anyone catch the fireworks exploding in unison from the tops of various buildings? I don’t know if they do that on the regular or if I was lucky enough to be there for some kind of celebration?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/20  at  10:20 PM

  • NEVEN:  Hey, thanks!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/21  at  01:31 AM

  • “I’ll take The Rapists for $600.” -Turd Feurgeson

    Erik! All these pics of HK are making me all nostalgic (I lived there for 3 years). I had no idea they re-built The Peak Tower - the old one looked like fruit on stilts as well. The place sure has changed since 86 - back then the white building directly behind the red boat in this picture:
    was the tallest building downtown!

    The Star Wars DVD came out today - the nerds are running wild in the streets.

    Posted by dunlavey  on  09/21  at  06:08 AM

  • Since you made a comment about Star Wars on DVD - I have it on good authority that they’re the most up to date versions - aka NOT the original versions. George won’t ever put those out… oh well… I still want one - does that automatically put me into the “nerd” category you’re referring to?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/21  at  08:57 AM

  • Noelle - no.  What about owning the originals, re-realeased and letter screen versions on videotape?

    Posted by Liz  on  09/21  at  04:19 PM

  • LIZ, did you get the final of AR5 yet?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/21  at  05:51 PM

  • Td0t- stop playing with my mind!  It’s confused enough as it is LOL Sign your own names to posts raspberry~

    Posted by Liz  on  09/21  at  06:22 PM

  • On Videotape? Um, that makes you way too old skool… and behind the times…
    My VCR isn’t even HOOKED up to my TV!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/22  at  01:34 AM

  • NOELLE - You don’t even have TV reception!  Now that’s OLD SCHOOL!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/22  at  02:03 AM

  • Well, yeah… but I have DVDs baby… and that’s what I live off of. Although now that the fall season of TV is happening, I’m feeling a little out of it…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/22  at  02:10 AM

  • Noelle - download AR6 from the net smile

    Posted by Liz  on  09/22  at  03:10 AM

  • Nah, I don’t need to watch reality shows… my life is enough of a reality ride… thanks for the tip, though. What I really want are the new shows for this year… like the cheesy WB ones. Hee hee.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/22  at  05:40 AM

  • Reality TV - boo! CARTOONS are where it’s at!

    Posted by dunlavey  on  09/22  at  09:21 AM

  • I’m denouncing the Star Wars DVD release as another ploy of Mr.Lucas to continue to make money off of the best movies he ever made (or is likely to). I’ve got my vintage version on VHS, letterbox. They can’t have it till they pry it from my cold dead hands.

    Better yet, LOTR RotK extended version hasn’t been solo released yet…. now that’s when us nerds will really go wild!

    If this admission makes me a nerd then E-CHU-TA! (and you SW nerds know what I mean)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/30  at  02:12 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today,, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.

Next entry:
The Six Days Between Dawn And Dusk

Previous entry:
A Day Away With A Big Buddha


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