Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Revenge of the Dragon

I blogged too soon yesterday. Dragon's Back Hike didn't kill me but Dragon Club nearly did. Last night following a traditional Chinese meal of Spanish tapas, I went to this ritzy club with Della and her friends. Immediately upon seeing the name of the club (and having been stopped by the doorman for being a dude) I knew bad things were in store. After sneaking into the club (AKA walking really fast behind two hot girls as they were allowed in) Della's friend Dave and I began to check out the place and the clientele. We couldn't have been in the club for more than twenty minutes when all of a sudden my eyes started to burn and I began to sneeze like I've never sneezed before. My throat started to itch and my eyes began to water. Dave looked at me like I was crazy as I began to head towards the exit for fresh air. Seconds later the whole club began to cough, sneeze and dart for the exit. It was a mad rush onto the streets of Hong Kong as probably four hundred bewildered and confused people spilled out, drinks in hand, into the night traffic. It turns out, someone had released pepper spray into the club. I knew who did it right away -- it was the dragon.

The only thought running through my head was, "this is how Alex must have felt all those times." Alex, despite his love of baseball, isn't always great at reading signs. Aidekman told me about "all those times Alex was pepper sprayed at camp." I didn't really believe him until the first time Alex ran out of a Syracuse bar, tear ducks dripping. We used to have a saying in college, "the night's not over till Alex gets sprayed." Here's a picture of the time Alex was sprayed by a bridesmaid at Glenn's wedding...

(Editor's Note: If you were as confused by the last paragraph as I was, but don't have Ben's email address because you're one of my friends reading this, allow me to assist. Turns out Ben was lazy and didn't bring out his camera today so rather than leave his faithful readers in a pictureless lurch, he thought he'd post this pic of Alex along with an elaborate lie framed as a "joke." So to refresh, Alex is not a handsy drunk who gets peppersprayed. Usually he just gets a knee to the groin.)

The Dragon's Back

Steve Song's friend Della lives in Hong Kong and emailed me a list of must see/do things in the city. One of the things on the list was called "The Dragon Back Hike" which she noted was called "the best urban hike in Asia" by TIME magazine. Well, I like hikes and although I'm partial to NEWSWEEK, I decided to give it a go today. I mentioned the hike to this weirdo German in my hostel room (Why is he weird? Well, when I walked in yesterday I said "How are you doing?" and he looked blankly at me, said nothing, and went back to folding his socks. Five minutes later he turned to me and said, "I hate this fucking city.") and he did some internet research and wrote down on a piece of paper how to find the hike. Well this morning he and I awoke bright and early around 6:50. He got up first and waved good morning and went to the bathroom. When he came back I went to the bathroom. When I came back he was gone. I waited thirty minutes and he still was gone. I thought this was weird but then again I've been referring to him in both this email and my mind as "the weirdo German." The strange thing was that the paper he wrote the directions to the hike was still on the counter in our room. I copied down the directions and put it into my pocket. It occurred to me right away that copying direction from a person who doesn't speak English as his first language or well at all wasn't a good idea. I tried to get into the hostel computer room but it was locked until 9AM. Instead of waiting two hours I decided to just wing it with the badly translated, chicken scratch directions. Would this come back to bite me in the butt?....Can you say cliffhanger?

After catching the subway and changing to a bus I felt really confidant. I asked the bus driver, "Do you know where the dragon's back hike starts?" He said he did and would tell me when to get off. I was in the midst of reading on the top deck of the bus when I heard the bus driver bang and yell, "Dragon's Back!" I wasn't ready to get off yet and gathered up my stuff and in the melee left my black LA hat. This is good news for all of you who hated that hat. I thanked the bus driver and jumped off the bus. As soon as the bus pulled away I looked at my surroundings--I was in the middle of nowhere. There was a foot path which I started to walk on and came to a sign, the one pictured above. Immediately I realized I might have had some bad judgement on doing this hike. Lets examine the sign and my situation at the time:
1. "Always go hiking with the company of others." I WAS ALONE.
2. "Plan your route carefully before setting out." I HAD NO IDEA WHERE I WAS GOING OR WHERE I WAS STARTING.
3. "Always bring a map and advice your family and friends of where you are going and when you will be coming back." NO MAP. NO FAMILY OR FRIENDS HAD BEEN ADVISED.
4. "To avoid mosquito bites, wear light colored long sleeve shirts, trousers not shorts, wear insect repellent." I HAD ON A DARK GREEN LONG-SLEEVED SHIRT, SHORTS AND NO REPELLENT.
5. "Wear a hat and use sunscreen." LEFT MY HAT ON THE BUS. LEFT MY SUNSCREEN IN AUSTRALIA.
7. "Avoid bringing a large amount of cash and valuable belongings. Minimize the number of credit and ATM cards you carry." I HAD ALL OF MY MONEY, CREDIT CARDS AND ATM CARDS ON ME.

#7 I thought was kind of weird until I read #8.
8. "If get robbed, remain calm and avoid confronting the robbers." WHAT?! IF I GET ROBBED! WHAT THE HELL! I DON'T WANT TO GET ROBBED! I JUST WANT TO HIKE THE FREAKING DRAGON'S BACK.

To make me even more paranoid the next note was about being robbed too. Where the hell was I?

And the icing on the cake was one of the final warning: "Bring your mobile phone." I HAD NO PHONE.

The smart thing in this case would have been to stay on the road and wait for the next bus going back to town. However, Ben August doesn't always play the smart card (i.e. Breaking up with Brooke Rose in 4th Grade, Not investing in plastics in the 80s, etc. etc.)

I began the hike and was completely paranoid. Within about ten minutes I heard footsteps behind me and saw this guy quickly running up the trail. Who the hell was he? Why did he want to rob me? I came up with a quick game plan and moved all my big bills, credit cards and ATM cards into my shirt pocket. He would never look their, right? I then also grabbed my tripod out of my bag as a self-defense mechanism. His 12" knife would have nothing on me since my tripod could extend to 42". I picked up my pace and came to a fork in the road. I took the sign for Dragon's Back. Sure enough he went the other way. You'd think this was a good sign but I was sure he was radioing his friends up ahead that the idiot tourist was coming...

Once on top of the Dragon's Back I realized why this was such a highly touted hike. The hike gives you a 360 degree view of the ocean and different bays. It was spectacular despite a slight haze over the whole area. I took out my camera and snapped some pictures. I was disappointed with how they were turning out but told myself it didn't matter anyway since I was probably gonna get mugged up ahead and wouldn't have my camera anymore anyway.

I kept hiking and hiking and passed a few other suspicious character: an elderly couple who appeared to be going for a casual hike but in my mind were ready to rough up some tourist punk, a mountain biker who was suspiciously blowing up his tire with a bike pump, and a kid wearing a European soccer jersey. Finally, I came to another fork in the road. One way led back to the road where the bus would pick me up and other way led to Big Wave Bay. I debated on what to do when I saw a building up ahead. It seemed strange to me that a building was in the middle of the woods so I went for a closer inspection. In case my paranoia wasn't high enough it soon exponentially increased. The building was the HONG KONG CORRECTIONAL FACILITY. Yes, a freaking prison! A normal person at this point would definitely hit the main road and get the hell out of dodge. But as my dad can attest, I'm not normal. I headed for Big Wave Bay.

Long story short, I made it out okay and stumbled into some really cool beach towns. Unfortunately I hadn't brought my speedos or towel but was craving a dip in the water. I debated on going in in my undies but was quickly deterred by a sign that read, "Stay away from shark nets." For once today I made a good decision and stayed on land....