An awful lot of Buddhas

Since I’ve been here, of course, Helen’s been working, and since I don’t yet have a job I’ve been having a week or three of holiday. My days have been mainly filled either by doing things for the house (out buying things we need, or staying at home waiting for deliveries) or getting out and about and seeing some of the interesting sites the city has to offer.

The cemetry with the escalator on the RHS

Apart from aimless walking around taking the new environs in, my first proper excursion was to the 10,000 Buddhas temple (沙田萬佛寺) near Sha Tin, on the Kowloon side. The guide book said to get to Sha Tin station and follow the signs, but on arrival of course there weren’t any signs to follow. Helen had told me some directions in the morning, but I could only remember ‘turn left before the buildings’, so I thought I’d head left anyway and as luck would have it there was a building there to left in front of.

Praying at the cemetry

The second half of Helen’s instructions were to then turn right, but I’d forgotten that so I went straight on to what looked like a temple, but was in fact a very ornate cemetery. The cemetery was on the side of a hill, and thankfully they’d installed an escalator to help get to the top. I noticed something was amiss by the distinct lack of Buddhas, but it was quite an interesting place nonetheless. At different levels up the hillside, there were lots of different rooms filled from floor to ceiling on three sides by little Take My Pick style cubby-holes, which I assume were filled with the ashes of the deceased. After many levels of these (and some more helpful escalators), I had reached as high as I was permitted, and had now confirmed that I was in the wrong place by a complete lack of Buddhas thus far.

One of many rooms containing ashes on three walls from the ceiling to the floor

It was on the return journey down the hill that I noticed slightly to the left and through the trees, a footpath lined with Buddhas! That was the place! Now, how to get there? There was a little path that looked like it connected through the Buddhas path, but that was blocked with a gate and big fence with barbed wire, so I headed down to ground level and looked in vain for a connecting path, before a woman who looked like she was trying to sell something pointed around a building and hinted that I should go that way. Must be a common problem at the cemetery.

The walk up the hill to the Buddhas

Thus I arrived at the bottom of the path up to the 10,000 Buddhas temple, so named because there are 13,000 statues of the Buddha contained within its grounds. There followed a gruelling walk back up the hill (no escalators now!) looking at the life-sized Buddhas which lined the route, weaving back, forth, and mostly up the hillside. There were quite a lot of Buddhas, but I’m dubious as to whether there’s really 13-, or even 10,000 there.

The Courtyard

The top of the hill yielded to a beautiful little courtyard with the biggest statue of all under a protective awning, the temple itself under a big red drape of a dragon (that sounds quite tacky but it was really very nice), a tall red tower, which without the internet I’ve not been able to research the significance of, and yet more life-sized statues around the edges. The smell of Buddhist temples is what I think I like the most, as they have great cauldrons filled with burning incense sticks of people praying, and here there were such cauldrons and either end of the courtyard, and being on the side of a hill meant there was a nice breeze blowing across too, carrying the fragrance with it.

Slightly further up the hill there were a couple more smaller temples (and some more Buddhas), but by this stage the humidity had taken its toll upon me, and I was desperate to get back to some air con and at least a cool drink, so I headed back down the path towards Sha Tin station, and back on my merry little way around Hong Kong.


Moving house!

So the move has all gone to plan! Moving from Kami Shakujii in western Tokyo to Mei Foo on the mainland part of Hong Kong went through without a hitch (I won’t count the little internet hitch from the last post, which by the way has now been resolved in our favour); the new flat is amazing, much bigger than my ‘cosy’ little Kami Shakujii pad, and we have an amazing view of the cityscape of Hong Kong island. We’re still a little sparse of furniture, but getting things as we need them; chairs will probably be next on the list, as we’re currently either sitting on the bed or the floor, and with that a table will probably follow, but they’re not too important for us at the moment. Anyway, here are some pictures of where I spent the last 12 months in Tokyo, and where I’ll be spending at least the next 12 months in Hong Kong!

KS house from the outside

KS bedroom on the day I moved out, with fridge, table and TV, and traditional tatami mat on the floor

My small Tokyo kitchen, most annoyingly with only one hob

My Tokyo bathroom

My bedroom from the opposite angle – the door goes to a balcony with my washing machine


The Hong Kong house

With a much bigger kitchen! (2 hobs!)

HK Bathroom

The view from our flat over Hong Kong!

Avoid PCCW!

So another few days have passed, I’ve been around some of the sights of the city, more of which at a later date, and gradually got used to the humidity a little.

Having sorted out a fridge and a bed for the flat in the first two weeks, and being sick of having to use dodgy wifi from McDonalds and shopping centres when they have it, we’ve been trying to get internet sorted this week and it’s proving a right niggly bastard.

There’s a company called PCCW which has an effective monopoly over broadband provision in the city. Bearing this in mind, we went into a store and had a chat with a guy in there to see what they could offer us.

The first pain in the backside was that seemingly they can only provide 24 or 36 month contracts, which firstly I can’t believe, and secondly is absolutely ridiculous. We were expecting we’d probably have to pay more for a 12 month contract but not that we wouldn’t even be allowed one.

On a return visit, I was told that whilst 24 months was all they could offer, we could transfer the contract to a friend after 12 months and they would continue to receive the service (and pay) for the final 12 months. Whilst still not ideal, it was something to work with, and I’d managed to get a reasonable price out of the assistant.

I returned with Helen to sign the contract (she’s the only legal resident here at the moment) and thought no more of it.

Two days later we got a phone call from the same guy saying we can’t have the price we agreed any more because that was a special offer which had now expired. My response was effectively ‘tough titties’, we signed a contract at an agreed price. They said it was no longer available at that price. Annoyingly, not having Internet has meant I can’t really check the legalities of their reneging on a contract, but surely if we agreed a price with them that was stated on the contract, they have to honour it if it’s their mistake? If we’d changed our minds and said no we don’t want it they’d be on us like a ton of bricks with cancellation fees all over the place.

We’ve told the guy it’s not our problem and have written a letter of complaint to his manager (who had actually checked the price in store when we signed the contract) but currently it’s stalemate. We’ve said we expect the contract to be honoured or we’ll go to a different provider. Surely we’re in the right here?

What is annoying is that because of their near monopoly, there’s not really many other affordable providers around. Rock and a hard place.

In other news, I’ve had an interview and job offer from an English school here, and they’ve said they’ll sponsor my visa as well which is very nice, and I’m just ironing out some details with them as well; also harder because of the lack of reliable Internet.

Hopefully this’ll all be sorted soon and I can upload some photos again!

Arrival in Hong Kong

I’ve arrived in Hong Kong! Touchdown was on July 29th, and since then I’ve been having a little holiday, seeing different sites around the city, getting things for our new house, and generally getting used to living somewhere new (oh the humidity!).

Some general observations, first impressions, and comparisons with Japan:

Temperature: it’s about the same temp as Tokyo st this time of year, regularly 34-35 degrees, but the humidity is much, much higher. In Tokyo, at least when the sun went in it cooled down a little, whereas in HK you’re sweating most of the day and most of the night if you’re outside. Luckily our house is pretty cool (temperature-wise) so when inside with the air-con on, it becomes bearable again.

Noise: no one in HK ever shuts up! In restaurants, on trains, even in the road, it’s just a constant blast of noise. In Tokyo, everyone was much more reserved and kept themselves to themselves, which I preferred.

Politeness: service-wise there’s no question who’s the best. Japan is probably number one in the world. In HK restaurants, you’re lucky if you even get a word from a waiter before food is dumped anywhere on your table and they run off again. Very much a “why have you come to my restaurant and made me work, you little blighter” attitude. Also, there’s a lot of barging around in the streets and on the trains in HK, which I think is generally quite rude.

Food: good in Tokyo, but better in HK. More variety and cheaper. I also prefer the specialty here (dim sum) to Japan (I guess sushi?), and whilst not a big deal in the big scheme of things, they have an M&S here so I’ve been able to treat myself to a sausage roll for the first time in over a year!

Shops: Tokyo more shops, HK more markets. Not really a big issue for me as I don’t really like shopping. The markets are nice to talk through though I’m always skeptical about them (not just in HK, in general really), thinking they’re asking to scam you, either for quality or for price.

After a week and a bit of sorting stuff for the house, focus now is turning to finding some employment, and with that sorting out a work visa to actually legally allow me to stay!

Some Shane goodbyes

My year in Japan was spent working for Shane English School, priding itself on being Tokyo’s only English school specialising in teaching British English. The biggest perk for me was that during the week, lessons don’t start until 1pm, which meant that getting up at 9 or 10 was never an issue, and for a lazy bones like me it was perfect! Each day I worked at a different school in Tokyo, which meant that though the lesson material was often the same, the surroundings and people I worked with were different, so it was easier not to get bored of the same place or the same people too easily. However, working in 5 different schools also means saying 5 lots of goodbyes instead of just one! Here’s some of the pictures from my last week at school, and some of the goodbye parties.

Kuniko (left) is the receptionist at Shin-Tokorozawa school on Tuesdays, Junko (right) was my Japanese teacher and Kuniko’s friend

Hisako, Kyoko and Chie from Shin-Tokorozawa

Sydney, who I worked with in Ikebukuro on Wednesdays

Yui and Mio, my two sweet little 5 year olds!

Daiki, Honori and Ami

5 girls and a boy I taught on Fridays in Kumegawa

Mituse, Kimiko and Takako from Kumegawa

Seki-san and Setsuko-san, receptionists at Kumegawa on Fridays

My Kumegawa leaving party

Manami and Oliver, who I worked with at Ikebukuro on Wednesdays

R-L: Glen, Rina and Yuriko from Gotanda School, and Yuka