Thursday, January 4, 2007

Hong Kong, then home

The next day we tried the Vietnamese equivalent of Jewish penicillin in a bowl of chicken pho, as good as any made by Shelli’s mother in her previous life as a Vietnamese peasant. Room service is wonderful; if you have to be sick, do it in a good hotel.

United Airlines is the only US airline to fly out of Saigon, but they do it at 6:05 AM. The night before, New Year's Day, we had tried to go to Ngon, a restaurant that sounded intriguing: some clever entrepreneur had gathered many of the best street food vendors under one roof and supplied tables, chairs and clean implements, allowing us scaredy-cats to eat both exotically and safely at the same time. Unfortunately when we got there the crowd at the door and in the street looked like it would keep us from actually eating for several hours yet, so we told the cab driver to turn around and take us back to the hotel. Since we didn't speak Vietnamese and he didn't speak English and it was such a stupid thing to be telling him to do it took a few tries to make it clear ("These idiots came all the way here to look at the sidewalk for 2 minutes?"), but we had to be up at 3:30 the next morning; no way we could wait hours for a table. So we wound up having very good pizza at the hotel for our last meal in Vietnam.

Hong Kong is a replay of Saigon: feel not so bad, go out and sightsee, then Shelli spends the rest of the day and all of the following one in bed sneezing. This time the bed comes with a panoramic view of Hong Kong harbor, shrouded in mist and criss-crossed by ferries, freighters, junks, sampans, tugs and barges.

Yesterday we waited an hour to get a table at a recommended dim sum restaurant which was just OK, then wandered around the Hollywood Road area, which is full of antique shops. After looking in a number of them and finding that the things we liked cost more than we liked them, we went into one we remembered from 1987 and found our souvenir of this trip, a charming 10 inch tall wooden ancestor figure supposedly made about 1880.

A long trek down (thank god we had driven up! those hills are steep) through the bustle of Central district took us to the newly relocated Star Ferry terminal, where a ride on the upper deck costs HK$2.20, just under 30 cents USD, and another evening of room service.

Gene really liked what he saw of Hong Kong. Despite his own incipient cold, he managed to visit the Hong Kong Museum of Art where he was impressed by the extensive ceramics collection and the good job done in introducing youngsters to art. In between coughing spells we managed to do a bit of last minute shopping in the mall adjacent to the hotel.

Packed and ready to go, we will head to the airport in the morning.

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