Archive for January, 2008

Writer’s block in the New Year…

January 22, 2008

I’ve been back in Hong Kong since Saturday 5th January, and there’s been a definite lack of activity on the blog. Probably more down to laziness on my part than any other particular reason. Although, I feel it’s been a pretty quiet time which is pretty typical for January. Definitely more of the calm after the storm of partying through Christmas and New Year. As ever, returning back to Hong Kong brought on the jetlag and I’m still figuring out the best way to get through this. I don’t think falling asleep at my desk at 3pm every day would be considered an acceptable solution. Having said that, as I’ve noted before, the locals here think nothing of putting their heads down at lunch time for a bit of a nap. They bring cushions in expressly for this purpose. How they manage to wake up at the correct time is a bit of a mystery, as I don’t hear a lot of alarms going off round about 1:30-2:00pm every day.

Just before returning back to the UK for Christmas/New Year I’d looked into joining a gym out here. I found I was definitely lacking fitness for hockey matches. I signed up for Pure Fitness at Kinwick Place a couple of weeks ago. It’s walkable from the office after work, is conveniently located, and not horrendously expensive. I have had to sign up for a two year contract though, which nicely complements the two year tenancy agreement I signed, and the two year Internet/broadband contract as well. Looks like everywhere likes to tie you into long term(ish) contracts over here. I’d toyed with the idea of entering the Hong Kong half-marathon but this is now fully subscribed so I’ve missed out on that opportunity. Next year it will have to be.

Since returning I’ve also bought a sofa for my flat so I can veg out in front of the tv more easily. The crappy and uncomfortable plastic seats supplied with the apartment can finally be hidden away in storage. Faced with the choice of going to a local furniture store, of which there are plenty on the nearest main road where I live, or going to Ikea in Causeway Bay… I went to Ikea. It was a lot less hassle, involving simply ticking a few boxes on a sheet of paper, and then arranging a delivery date. Ikea are also quite convenient in that they take EPS as a payment option. EPS stands for Electronic Payment System and is very similar to Switch/Solo in the UK, with one notable difference: hardly anywhere actually uses it! Sofa and table arrived last Wednesday, accompanied by three guys who promptly set about putting the sofa together. These guys work pretty quickly, and within 20 minutes the sofa was done. Unfortunately the sofa I picked was only available in white, so will undoubtedly be grey by the end of the year.

I have also managed to sort out a helper for my flat. By helper, I really mean cleaner. Fortunately, a friend who lives nearby has used this particular helper for years, so she comes recommended and is reliable. For less than £10 per week, I get to return to my apartment after hockey to find it has been cleaned, the washing up has been done, and the ironing done. This last one was a bit of a surprise to me this week, as I haven’t as yet managed to buy an ironing board. It’s another one of those challenges of living somewhere foreign as to figure out where to buy things. Back in the UK I’d go to what was previously called an ironmonger or hardware store, or failing that Argos. I’d not been able to spot an equivalent to these kind of stores before Sunday, so I had an iron, but no ironing board. I’m still not entirely sure how the ironing was done – however I have since found a local shop that sells ironing boards.

As a friend at the hockey club here put it when I mentioned the whole cleaning, washing up, and ironing being done aspect ‘I’m really getting into living in Hong Kong now…‘. I think he was only partially joking, as it seems lots of people employ helpers/cleaners/maids/etc.

I also got paid a bonus whilst I was back in the UK, so came back to find my Hong Kong bank account looking pretty healthy, which was convenient as my UK bank account wasn’t looking quite so healthy. I knew when I agreed to stay here I’d have to transfer money back every so often, so figured this was as good a time as any to figure out how easy it is. First obstacle was to get my Internet banking set up to allow money transfers (both overseas and to other local accounts). More form filling, and more waiting at customer services at HSBC. I’m slowly learning to not go to places with queues at lunchtime. Once that was done I had to wait for my security device to arrive through the post (techies would recognise the SecurID token). So HSBC HK Internet banking seems to be a bit more secure than that in the UK. Once in, filling out the money transfer information was surprisingly easy and straightforward (and in English). Even better, the fee was less than £10 and the money arrived in my UK bank account the next working day. And yet, money transfers in the UK still take ~3 days… weird.

Clearly being paid a bonus meant I had to buy myself something. I had that itch to spend some money, but couldn’t figure out what to buy. In the end I went for a Playstation 3, despite as mentioned in a previous post not being a gamer. I have, in fact, given the PSP I bought last year away to one of the hockey coaches as it was simply collecting dust. So far it looks pretty cool, and I’ve even bought one game for it in a token effort to make it practical. However, it’s also possible to have various Linux distributions running on it, so if I need to satisfy my inner geek I’ll maybe get round to trying SUSE on it at some point. Having gone through some of it’s settings last night it can receive media streams (you might want to browse elsewhere if media servers/centres aren’t your thing). Before coming out here I ripped my DVD (and CD) collection to hard disk so I could take my movies with me without needing to drag all the DVDs too. Quite impressively, I’m able to have these stream from my little NSLU2 storage unit to the PS3 and be displayed on my tv. At least now, if/when I don’t with games on the PS3, I’ll have an expensive media player and Blu-Ray player (I have, obviously, not bought any Blu-Ray disks yet). I’m also now hoping that Blu-Ray is VHS to HD-DVD Beta.

Oh yeah, weather has been cold enough to require jacket/coats in the evening, although I did get a bit of sunburn on Sunday whilst playing hockey. Air quality is totally rubbish right now though.