Alive and well, and living in Tokyo ...

Reports from Essien Leroy, Our Man in Tokyo ...
July / August 2000

Day One in Tokyo

Alive and well
and living in Tokyo


Climbing Mount Fuji
or How to kill a weekend

Of crime and Punishment

Tales of Two Cities

Japanese Inventions

Keeping up with the Jones

Essien's Reaction to the Web Site

Out of Body Experience

It all depends

The Girls of Summer

An old Chinese saying

An old Chinese saying
The Chinese in Hong Kong have a saying, "If you're not buying anything get out". Since I have no idea about the chronology of the expression I wont call it an old Chinese expression, but it is, none the less, a popular one. Honk Kong is one huge mall and everyone seems to have something for sale at every turn. Fake Rolex are the fashion here and someone is at every turn offering to sell you one. They sell for over 400 US$, so I don't see the point of wearing a fake 400 US$ anything. That seemed like a real authentic price to me. The tailors are all over the side walk trying to talk to into a 100 US$ custom-made suit or a dozen shirts for 200 US$. The prices of everything in the stores are halve or less what they cost in the states. Everything is wool or pure silk and inexpensive.

When the regular stores close some where around 10 or 11 PM, a night market opens on the street and last till 3:00 AM and for everyone that had the patience to stay up that late you are left speechless at the prices sometimes 50% less then what you just paid at the stores just a hour earlier. I am left to think that this is how the regular Honk Kong citizen get together and laugh at the tourist. Having spend an entire day ripping them off with outrageous prices they can now get together and practically give it all away to each other, while the tourist sleep. No mater how cheaply you buy it in Honk Kong you can be sure you are being ripped-off. The problem is that no matter what you pay it still comes out cheaper the you can get it else where. But along with this bargain basement mentality comes a utter disrespect for the clientele. If you take too long to decide you run the risk of being told off or kicked out of the store. If you ask for the price and don't buy you have just asked to be subjected to random verbal abuse by the shopkeepers.

In Tokyo shopkeepers would apologize for not having your size or the color you want, making you feel bad for even asking, in Hong Kong you may get cursed out for even thinking that they would have you size. What was on your mind? Stupid American get out and please come again. You quickly come to the conclusion that the extreme politeness of the Japanese is not an Asian trait. Honk Kong is New York on steroids. A place where attitude and rudeness is mixed with bilingualism to create a noxious brew. I stayed in a dormitory style hotel in Kowloon and my room mate was an expatriate African-American dread from Katmandu, Nepal, you read correct, who as a merchant marine and was on his ninth trip to Kowloon. I asked him it he had any advice for a virgin tourist in Honk Kong. He said, "Yes, don't take it personal". "Take what personal", I said. "Don't worry", he said, "the advise will soon make sense. And it soon did. It took time to slip into my New York skin again after two month in Pleasantville, but it was back on in no time and busy not taking it personally and dishing back at length.

On the second day I entered a store on Honk Kong Island near the Goldman office and say a shirt I wanted to buy the wife. There was a 50% sale and the original price was 3000 HK$, but since I had some problem making up my mind the girl offered it to me at an even further discount of 1100. I decided at the time the I smelled a fleecing and told her I changed my mind she offered it to me for 800 down from 3000. I said no thank you because at this point I was sure that something was up and it smelled foul. That is the night that I discovered the night market in Kowloon following a small mention on the tourist map. And there in the market was the 3000 HK$ shirt for 250 at the night market and the exact same one. The night vendor at the night market offered it to me for 200. From 3000 to 200 what a deal.

On the third day I decide to go to Macao where the Portuguese Catholics had for centuries spent millions to convert a handful of Chinese and suppress there Protestant counter parts. It's still today the stronghold of Christian faith in China, but their success was so minor that the Chinese government does not even bother to suppress it now that Macao is once again officially Chinese property. To my surprise the Chinese of Macao are so surprisingly polite and endearing that you ask yourself, what is going on here. I've only traveled one hour by ferry and a little change in latitude produced such a great change in attitude. I started to read my guide book and it would seem that Macao, made the gambling center of Asia by the ultra religious Portuguese, is under siege by the triads. In their spare time, when they are not blackmailing and contra banding, they've taken to exploding bombs in government Limos and public squares. This has caused the tourism in Macao is flee to Hong Kong, making the shop keepers in Macao outright giddy to see anyone visiting and weary of pissing anyone off. The treatment you get in Macao is well worth the threat of being blown up and the prices are also considerably cheaper then in Honk Kong. But after a day I had to get back to my hotel in Kowloon, so off I went.

By day four I found myself back on Honk Kong Island at central station near the ferry dock, and that is when I saw it. All of the sudden I was in the middle of the biggest collection of Filipino women I have ever seen. I wanted to get on the other side of central but I questioned the intelligence of crossing the station. On all sides as far as the eye could see were women, all Filipino and seated on the grass, on the sidewalk, in the station, on walls facing the station, on the stairs, almost every square foot of central was occupied. As you got closer to the water the streets were closed and women were siting in the street. They were playing cards, eating out of Tuper wear, doing each other's hair, and one woman near the old French embassy was getting a perm, but all generally having a damn good time. I wondered if there was a protest, a sit-in or a we hate men Million woman march that I'm about to walk into. I thought, it's too late for me to be subjected to a virgin sacrifice, so if anything how bad could it be to get manhandled by a thousand or so women. Hell in New York you have to pay good money for that , so off I went. After a halve hour of trying to make sense of the gathering, I finally decided to ask a passing Caucasian if he spoke a Euro language that I had a handle on. Out of the three he knew, we chose French so I would not have to put up with the French accent of the other two. He explained to me that the Filipino women of Hong Kong every weekend of holiday get together at Central station and just sit around and talk to each other. This sitting represented the entire Filipino population of Honk Kong and was 99.9 percent women. I can not even begin to guest the total number of woman that I was looking at sitting at central but it had to number in the tens of thousand. In total amazement I carefully exited the station ground careful not to upset anyone and head back for my train. I had a night market to browse and I wanted to get some sleep first.