Hong Kong

I was recently in Hong Kong for a very brief period of time. This trip was a typical “Matt” deal. No planning, No research, Nothin’

After a stressful 12 hour flight next an irate seat hogger, I arrive. First task after clearing customs was to secure myself an “Octopus” card, as I would need one to travel around the Hong Kong metro without paying a fortune. I first stopped at a desk that said “Train Tickets” I asked at that desk if they sold Octopus cards. “NO”. He answered. You go over there! So I haul my bags over to another desk. At the next desk I ask the same question and am given a similar response: “Hmmmmmmmm……..  NO! Octopus card over there!”. So I head to yet another desk, once again asking the same question. He responds: “You want Octopus card!?!?” he says. “Two hundred dollar!”. I hand over my credit card… “NO!”. He points to a sign that says credit cards are accepted on all purchases except Octopus card. For crying out loud. I now drag my bags all the way back into the terminal and withdraw some cash. Queue up again and finally get the damn thing.

The next fantastic experience was my Hotel. Boy – What a fricking nightmare. It was so ridiculously westernised it drove me mad. The staff had fake American accents, the hotel had a phony western sounding name (when really it was a Chinese hotel registered under a Chinese name), all of the food was uber western, they had American style toilets (see previous post!) and this had to be the best part: Lifts that go… “Bing!” Like in the movies. Boy, those “binging” lifts had to be the pièce de résistance of the whole joint. The binging was so loud that you could clearly hear bings 3 floors above, and 3 floors below. In fact you could hear them so well that it was difficult to tell when a bing was for your floor. Multiply that by 6 lifts and you are literally standing there listening to a medley of binging, for a very long time I might add, as it took for ever for a lift to arrive. Argh!

So anyway, the rest of the visit. Well lets see… I went around on the metro stopping off at random places. Found a lot of very random stuff indeed. I really felt that I got to see the “Real”  Hong Kong. At one point I found myself in a very shabby slum like area which was very interesting indeed. After milling around for a while I was grabbed by a local and shouted at: “WHY YOU HERE? THIS AWEA NOT FOW TOUWISTS!” He dragged me over a map of the metro system and pointed at the connection between the Hong Kong metro, and the Shenzhen metro and said in a loud whisper: “CHINAaaaa….”. And I was immediately thinking: CHINA! Didn’t realise it was that easy to get to China from Hong Kong. Not that I had time. I had a flight to board in 4 hours time. Maybe next time.

Dadblasted American toilet strikes again

Last night I checked into my Hotel Room in Hong Kong. Upon opening the  bathroom door I noticed the dreaded brand name “AMERICAN STANDARD” on the porcelain. A quick look under the lid reveals my worst fears: An American style toilet. NOOOOO! God no! Not another one. I hate these things to the extent where my skin crawls just thinking about them. I’ve seen them in the USA, Canada and now Hong Kong.

How do you know you’ve got one? Easy. The waterline before flushing is high. Very high. Almost up to the brim of the bowl. On first sight one may think it’s blocked, but it’s not. They’re all like this.

Before I get bogged down with the details, let’s just take a few minutes to discuss the issues with such a hazardously high waterline:

Problem #1: Standing. Guys like to stand up while urinating and naturally this generates minor splashing. Because the bowl is always in a state of near overflowing, naturally some of that splash is going to leave the bowl and end up on either the urinator, or the floor.

Problem #2: Off-putting. Watching all of that water slowly turn *ahem* yellow isn’t exactly a good feeling. Aside from the obvious, you tend to sit there thinking about how you’re going to be forced to waste gallons of water after flushing, just to take a leak.

Problem #3: Sitting. Once again, this is a problem for guys. When you sit, things hang down. Water is down. Not nearly far enough down either. I’ve observed that the high tide line seems to vary from unit to unit. Sometimes you have a full inch of clearance, other times, nope.

Wait! I’ve barely started ranting about how incredibly freaking stupid these toilets are! Let’s move to the next area: The Flush.

The first flush of one of these is a real surprise. You thought you knew how a toilet was meant to flush, but no. These things have a dazzlingly complex flush process which simply blows the mind. Upon pressing the lever the following happens:

1: The Bowl begins to drain out of the incredibly tiny, easily blocked hole at the bottom, swirling either clockwise or anti-clockwise depending on which hemisphere you’re in.

2: As the bowl drains out some water starts to flow down from the sides. There also appears to be a “Jet” of clean water at the bottom pushing the dirty water out.

3: Once the bowl is fully drained it then begins to fill alllll the way up again.

Wow. Considering that the flush lever has no mechanical connection to the bowl. How the hell does all of that work? That is one hell of a feat of fluid dynamics. I’ve spent a lot of time studying these things trying to understand what on earth is going on during flush but remain stumped.

Because the design of these toilets is so incredibly braindead, they’re highly prone to both blocking and flooding. Lets imagine this scenario: You’ve just flushed it and weren’t happy that it all went down, so you hang around and let the Cistern half fill, then flush it again. Oops! Even though you haven’t blocked it, you now have a flood on your hands and you had better run as you’re about to be standing in toilet water. Because the design is so astoundingly crap, the “Jet” of water needs to be sufficiently strong in order to push the existing water out of the bottom of the bowl. Because the cistern was only half filled, the pressure was less. Your bowl is already full and now there’s another half a cistern full on the way with nowhere to go except around your feet. Now there’s a trail of loo water running out of the bathroom, under your Hotel room door and out into the hallway. Crap.

Blockages? You bet. The whole flushing mechanism is so astonishingly ineffective that almost nothing can be flushed down it without some level of blockage.

American Standard? They can keep it.