Four and a half hours in Hong Kong

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What can you do with a four and a half hour layover in Hong Kong? I don’t know what you could do, but I can complete a whirlwind tour of the city, making use of three different modes of transportation, and still getting back to my gate in time to have a relaxing dinner. Your mileage may vary. Your tolerance for risking missing your flight may be much lower than mine.

Planning

This little tour wasn’t something I just stumbled upon–I spent a fair bit of time searching and reading and learning. I came up with a number of possible ideas, and it was only the day before my trip that  I settled on this route. But there are a few prerequisites that all had to fall into place to make it possible:

  • The Hong Kong airport is a model of organization and efficiency. I read in many “what can I do with a layover” articles that HKG was not to be feared for long lines or chaos. Yes, circumstances can change day by day. But reading in multiple sources that HKG was easy to traverse gave me hope that this was even possible. In contrast, EVERYONE says that you should be at the the Aruba airport 3 hours prior to departure because of the lines to enter lines.
  • The Airport Express train line is easy to figure out and stops at two key destinations: Kowloon and Hong Kong Central. Plus it runs every 10 minutes.
  • Immigration into Hong Kong is reported to be very easy. Western travelers should have no problems.
  • I’m in good health. My knees sometimes play havoc with me, but of late they were feeling good, so I felt up for the amount of walking I would be doing.
  • I didn’t have to mess with my checked bag. Although I would be switching airlines in Hong Kong, I didn’t have to collect my checked bag. Therefore I didn’t have to store it, or worse, take it with me.

With those issues laid to rest, here is the plan I laid out:

  • 1:30PM Arrival HKG
  • 2:15PM Board Airport Express line to Kowloon Station (Departs every 10 minutes)
  • 2:45PM Arrive Kowloon Station. Use Exit C. This gives me 75 minutes in Sky 100.
  • IF I can depart Kowloon station by 3:30:
    • 3:30 Taxi to Star Ferry Pier Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry departs every 6-8 minutes
    • 3:40 Ferry to Hong Kong
    • 3:50 Walk to Hong Kong Station
  • 4:00PM Board Airport Express line at Kowloon or Hong Kong Station to HKG (departs every 10 minutes)
  • 4:30PM Arrive HKG
  • 6:00PM Flight departs

The first thing to notice is that I had options. If the sky was overcast, I could skip Sky 100. If the lines for Sky 100 were too long, I could skip the ferry ride. And of course, if I my flight didn’t arrive in time, I could just turn around.

Here’s how it actually went…

1:35PM flight arrives HKG. I was seated in Business Class, so it was pretty easy to get off the plane, and start making my way out. The signs were easy to follow, first for immigration, and then for “city”. There was maybe a 5-10 minute wait for immigration, but the lines felt like they were moving briskly and there were a lot of inspectors. My immigration inspector said not a single word to me. For customs, I walked out the “Nothing to declare” doors without breaking stride.

Next came the ticket station for Airport Express. I reviewed my intended plan with the young woman at the counter (get off at one station, get back on at another) and she made sure I had the right ticket and handed it to me with a smile. If I were to do this again, I would probably wait until I could get the ticket after I got cash, but that is a minor quibble.

On my way out of the airport, I stopped at an ATM and withdrew Hong Kong dollars. I had read that most taxis didn’t take credit, and that cash is still king for most transactions, so I wanted to be prepared. The smallest withdrawal I could make was HK$500 ($62) which was way more than I needed, but I figured better to have it than not.

2:15PM Sitting on the Airport Express train. Exactly as planned. The train departed, was smooth, clean, and quite nice.

The walk from Kowloon Station to the entry for Sky 100 was longer than I might have thought–my path was through a mall, and up several levels. But the signs were plentiful, and the crowds were easy to pass through. I purchased my ticket for Sky 100 and rode the elevator to the top, with no waiting. I was in the observation deck by 2:50PM.

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Despite having spent HK$168 ($21), I stayed on the observation deck for only 10 minutes. There certainly was more to see from the deck, but I knew now that I had a fair bit of walking to get to a taxi.

In fact, I didn’t really know where I was going to get to a taxi. I made my way back through the mall, heading toward Kowloon station and the parking deck, hoping that something would be obvious along the way. And it was–a set of doors to my right led to a parking circle to a hotel, and there were taxis all around. I walked up, and a taxi was hailed for me. Once in the taxi, the driver said not a word to me. I hoped that my “Star Ferry Pier” was enough to get me where I was going.

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Based on my Google Fu, I planned on the taxi taking 10ish minutes, and costing HK$60-100 ($8-12). I watched the meter, and watched the approaching harbor, but really had not much clue what would happen to me. When the taxi driver stopped, the meter was just shy of HK$40, and we were in the middle of the street, with buses and taxis all around. “This is it”. I couldn’t even see the harbor because of the buses. I gave the driver HK$60–he had wasted no time in getting me there–and made my way to the sidewalk.

At this point, I was a little disoriented. Yes, there was the water. Yes, Hong Kong island was in easy view. Yes, people were everywhere. But there were no obvious signs to the ferry. Mostly there were lots of signs of political protest, and women offering services that I declined to inquire about.

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I wandered the quay for 3-4 minutes, and then spotted what I was sure to be the ferry coming in to dock. I made my way that direction, found a machine to buy my fare token (it was a staggering HK$3.40, or $0.40 for the premium weekend fare), and was seated on the boat at 3:26PM–14 minutes ahead of schedule.

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The ferry ride was quick, and afforded a nice harbor view of the city. Upon exiting the ferry, I was able to follow signs for “Central MTR” which was the station I wanted. I was on the train, ready to head back to the airport at 3:45PM.

I’m really not sure it could have been faster or easier to get through security. There were no lines anywhere, and I had made it all the way to my gate by 4:30PM, easily 30 minutes ahead of my hoped-for schedule.

The airport is clean and modern, but it was crowded and chaotic. I couldn’t find a place to sit to eat my dinner, and there were no seats open at the gate. This is all a normal part of traveling, especially through busy airports, but it made me all the more happy that I hadn’t been sitting around in the airport for the whole layover.

Hypocrisy

Actions speak louder than words, no? The bible, believed by millions to be the word of god, says over and over that one should feed the hungry. So believers should find it easy to donate money in various ways to feed the hungry. There are many GoFundMe fundraisers specifically dedicated to helping to feed the hungry.
Here are just a few.

 

Zions-Children-of-HaitiFeeding Haitian children for $3 per meal.  Current funding level: $4019.

1wpuxkCharity Right feeds 500 people per day. Current funding level: $1910.

Feed---the---Hungry.ongA food bank in Pasadena, CA that needs to buy a refrigerator and some shelving to feed the local hungry. Current funding level: $1150.

helpingbeauOne young boy’s effort to feed 50 families on Thanksgiving. Funding goal of $5000 reached!

cdzolwFeed a Kenyan village for a month. Current funding $1990.

But surely you’ve heard of Memories Pizza in Indiana. They claim that their religion teaches them that they are to shun homosexuality. This, of course, it the subject of immense debate among theological scholars and half-witted bigots alike. For the moment, lets assume, sure, their religious beliefs make it intolerable for them to celebrate the love a man shares with a man, or a woman shares with a woman. This pizza place has publicly declared that they would not cater to Gay/Lesbian weddings. They’ll still serve gay & lesbian patrons in their shop. In my experience, very few wedding receptions are catered by pizza shops (I can’t think of a single one that I’ve ever been to… perhaps wedding receptions are different in Indiana), so this public declaration would directly have very little impact on their business. The politics, however, have completely blown up around this issue, and the proprietors have decided to shut down.
So here we have a few people out of jobs, and the pizza shop owners having to look for something else to do with their lives. Is it appropriate to help them out? Sure, if that is your perspective. They might go hungry.

MemoriesPizzaSupport a Pizza business made famous by declaring that they would not cater Gay/Lesbian weddings. Current funding: $842,592.

 

  • Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
  • Isaiah 58:10 If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
  • James 2:14-18 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
  • Proverbs 28:27 Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
  • Luke 3:11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
  • 1 John 3:17-18 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

The $15 Art from IKEA

Via PetaPixel, there’s a video showing people evaluating a piece of art that you can purchase at IKEA in the midst of an art museum. It’s funny and nicely done. At the end, when they reveal that people have been punked, and that they could buy it for only 10 euros, most everyone laughs at themselves. One pair just walk away in quiet disgust (or shame).

Implicit in this video is the trope that people don’t know art. Or don’t know what art is worth. Or will believe anything given the right context. I’d like to look at it from another angle.

First off, lets call the piece art. Just because prints of it are sold by IKEA for almost nothing doesn’t diminish the value of the art to individual observers. In fact, you can buy prints (or tshirts or mugs or anything else) of pretty much every famous piece of art for which there is no current copyright.

And so that becomes an important distinction: print versus original versus copyright. What IKEA is selling for 10 euros is a print. It is not selling the original, nor is it selling the copyright. So the fact that you could buy the print for 10 euros means ultimately that you have nothing of value to the art world after you complete the transaction. You have a print, just like millions of others. Congratulations.

On the other hand, the original is still owned by someone else. Now we could argue about the value of that original now that every IKEA shopper with a keen eye for art has one. Perhaps it is more valuable now that homes across Europe and America have a copy. Perhaps it is less. I don’t know. But I’ll hazard a guess that the original cannot be purchased for 10 euros.

In the video, people attempt to hazard a guess at the value of the art. Remember, they are standing in a museum (not the gift shop), and so they are implicitly assuming that they are estimating the value of the original. Not the print. And by the way, these are museum visitors, not curators. Not experts. So they guess some wildly varying numbers, all way more than 10 euros, as they should be. The fact that people chortle at this video shows they didn’t understand the important distinction between print and original.

Does IKEA own the original? I have no idea. But IKEA owns a license to reproduce it from the copyright holder. That license has commercial value, and I’m sure IKEA paid the copyright holder more than 10 euros for it. Could you buy that license from IKEA? Depends on the terms of the contract and license to reproduce. But I’ll hazard a guess that you couldn’t buy that license for 10 euros.

So here are all the pieces: person A owns the original, and it is worth way more that 10 euros; person B (maybe the same as A, maybe not) owns the copyright, and sold a license to IKEA to reproduce it in a commercial setting; IKEA reproduces it and sells it for 10 euros; many people purchase a print for 10 euros and hang it in their homes.

So are we to guffaw at museum visitors who guess that the (ahem, original) might be worth millions of euros? Just because you could buy it in an IKEA (or the museum gift shop) for 10 euros doesn’t make them wrong. It could be worth that much. If I were the owner of the original, I’d be trying to find the guy who was willing to buy it for 2.5M euros.

As for the woman who comments that you couldn’t buy that art in a cheap store, I’ll assume she was referring to the print, and that its complexity and multiple layers could not appeal to a mass audience, therefore no cheap store could possibly sell enough of them. This reveals her ignorance of other humans, not her ignorance of art.  She has underestimated the demand for art like this, and IKEA’s ability to leverage that demand to sell prints at a price that anyone could afford.

What about the guys who walk away quietly at the end of the video? Well, perhaps we don’t know their real reaction because it has been edited out. Perhaps they realized that the premise of the video was to make fun of people, and that they’d just been made fun of. Perhaps they wanted to justify their assessment of the price with a “I thought you were talking about an original. Of course a print could be bought for 10 euros”. But rather than add fodder to the video, they just walked away. I can’t say as I blame them.

Too Many photographers

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Now that we’re on the down-side of the DSLR era, I’ve gotten used to being the only person at a non-photography event that could be considered a photographer. Holding a DSLR is almost old-school at this point, what with the growth of the mirror-less and high-end compact classes. So I was a bit surprised when I showed up at an Adam Ezra performance tonight, and I was one of four photographers:

  • There was the band fan, in his tie-dyed shirt, and long gray hair and beard. He was sporting a low-end Nikon with a kit lens. The camera didn’t sit comfortably in his hands–it looked like he was afraid to break it, by twisting the zoom in the wrong way.
  • There was the significant-other of someone in the band. She had a lens whose sole purpose in life is to proclaim that more zoom is more better. And she had an external on-camera flash. She was attempting to compose pictures with the fans in them, but I’m guessing, because of the flash, that the fans were playing hell with her exposure.
  • There was a self-important photographer, who came rushing in mid-way through the first set, dumped his sling-bag on a table, and immediately pulled out two mirrorless cameras. He worked the stage in a way that would have embarrassed a teen girl at a Bon Jovi concert. He also took video, with his tiny external mic sitting in the camera hot-shoe.
  • Then there was the stand-offish photog, scowling, though perhaps not intentionally, at the other photographers. He had this off-camera flash mounted to a pole in in the center of the room, that would nuke the whole space whenever it went off. He tried to keep his distance if another photog was at the stage, but sometimes just couldn’t help it, prostrating himself to get that “he’s on a big stage” angle.

I’m not sure what it is–I feel like I have the evil combination of being non-competitive, and being hyper-meta-aware that I’m doing something ancillary to the point of the performance. So when there’s another photographer present, I can’t cry. (sorry, Fight Club reference).

But that is kinda it, too. As a photographer, I’m not there to enjoy or take part in the performance–of course I do, but that’s only when I let the musical part of my brain do some of enjoying. I’m there to observe, and evaluate, and assess. And I’m there to hunt for moments, and interactions, and expressions. None of those are reasons why people are on stage. The folks on stage have a performance to perform, songs to sing, messages to …um… message. So I try, maybe to a fault, to stay out of the way, or to intrude only briefly. If I go up front to make a few pics, after 5-10 seconds, I’ll beat a hasty retreat to the back, almost sulking for having interrupted others’ enjoyment.

So if another photographer is present, I become hyper-aware of that person. I try to not get in their way, but more importantly, I try to not add to the distraction they present. Plus, I don’t want to try to outdo them in some unspoken, douchebag kind of way. These feelings were so strong in me tonight, that I very nearly left the moment the fourth photographer arrived.

But I stayed, and stayed back, for the most part. Some moments were just to delicious to pass up. Plus, on occasion, I would fire my off-camera flash in hopes of screwing up someone else’s picture.