For the next couple of days, I'm in Hong Kong – or as my father calls it, Harry Honkers – for a NetEvents bash. This will mean listening to people like Negroponte give keynotes and meeting more mustard-keen companies than I've had crispy duck pancakes. However, that's in the near future: today, I'm recovering from the flight, and trying to make sense of my first experience of the place.
Everywhere smells of three Ss – sandalwood, sigarettes, and sh... you know what. I was met off the the plane – and continually thereafter – by small, bossy women who issue orders with such a natural sense of officer-class superiority, I constantly feel the irresistible urge to salute. So far, not one of them – not one! – has reacted in any way to this, they appear unshakeably No Nonsense.
I shall have to up the ante.
I've also been stickered. I've now had two stickers slapped on my lapel by small, bossy women to identify me to further SBWs – and while I was gawping at the first, my bag got done too.
The echos of Empire are all around – the traffic, the roadsigns, the 3-pin plugs. UK mains plugs! That alone is enough to turn a latent imperialist into a sabre-rattling subduer of worlds. And the bus which turns up to take us to the hotel was almost certainly once driven by Reg Varney.
I settle into my seat and take in impressions of Harry Honkers. There are So. Many. People. They must live in the vertical suburbs that ring the city – huge conglomerations of sixty-story skyscrapers – and lots of the Very Many People stand around in various colourful blazers, sweaters and other demi-uniforms. Some have clipboards. I have no idea what is going on. And furthermore, each conglomeration appears to have its own ten story primary school named after a saint.
The double-decker trams have completely the wrong aspect ratio – so tall and thin they're like a 16:8 public transport device displayed on a 4:3 sscreen.
I get to the hotel – a rather basic affair next to an underwear shop. Not sure who I'd buy knickers for emblazoned with the slogan "Red Joy!". Perhaps the woman I saw at the airport wearing a jacket with a rather diagrammatic rabbit on the back, holding a steering wheel and with flames shooting out of its rabbity arse. The slogan there was "WIND BREAKERS ON THE ROAD – CALVIN KLEIN JEANS". I try to check in, to find I've been checked in already and the other Rupert Goodwins has got my key. Perhaps he'll pay my bar bill? After much flustering, SBW #5 (at least) comes back all smiles saying "Your spirit is already in your room. Here is your key".
Things can only get weider...