Taking Care Of Business

By Stephen Ewashkiw | December 30, 2013

When we have time off in any city there are always chores to get done. Since we are planning to head out of China before February, we have been deciding on the best route south. The next few months of riding will involve visiting at least six countries along the way, and most will require a tourist visa.

Money, It’s What I Want

Fortunately we only need to get one visa while in Hong Kong. Vietnam will be our next port of call, and while they offer a visa-upon-arrival service, these are only available at an airport. Since we will be doing a land border crossing by bicycle we need to pre-arrange our visa.

In Hong Kong you can basically get whatever visas you need as a traveller, which makes it a popular stop on world or Southeast Asia trips. This means getting visas here is a straight forward process. You just need three things: time, to come back in a few days to pick up your visa; patience, to wait in line; and money. We had two of those three today.

We got to the Vietnamese Consulate fairly early and the queue wasn’t too long. We filled out the application form, glued on our photos left over from our failed Russian application, got up to the window and realised we didn’t have enough money to pay. Thankfully the clerk took our paperwork and passports, and allowed us to run out to get cash.

So many apartments, so few ATMs, Hong Kong.

So many apartments, so few ATMs, Hong Kong.

Finding an ATM that would give us cash was harder than we expected. When we got back, Jane pushed to the front of the line in a very un-Canadian way to slip our clerk the cash ($500 HKD each for 30 days in Vietnam). Since this is normal behaviour in China, he happily handed her a receipt, and told us to come back on Friday to pick up our passports.

That’s Indian Food!

Our next stop was Chung King Mansions, which we’d read about on the BBC during the train ride to Hong Kong. Jane had discovered a vegetarian Indian restaurant in the complex on Happy Cow, so headed across the water on the Star Ferry to check it out.

a junk and star ferry in hong kong

A junk and the Star Ferry, Hong Kong.

The Star Ferry is a big tourist activity in its own right, but when you’re from British Columbia and you’ve travelled through the Finnish Archipelago, ferries lose a bit of their sheen.

Still, the short crossing was a fun way to get over to Kowloon.

Chung King Mansions is a network of high-rise buildings filled with apartments converted into restaurants, massage parlours, hostels, and boutique hotels. There are almost 2000 rooms available in the mansions and there must be more than 100 hostels. The lower two floors are more like a mall, selling electronics, tourist tat, and household goods.

After finding our way through the throngs of hawkers on the ground floor of the complex, all flashing business cards, encouraging us to come to their restaurant, or buy a SIM card, we found the elevator up to the 5th floor of Block B. Here, there was a locked door and the sign for Smrat Pure Veg. There were at least three different hotels on this floor as well.

We rang the bell and were let in.

The setting was simple, kind of like eating in someone’s converted living room. We had the set lunch of dal, basmati, two curries and chapati. The food was also quite simple and it felt like we were eating someone’s home cooked Indian food, which is presumably exactly what it was.

hallway at chung king mansion

Back hallway in Chung King Mansion.

Jane’s note: The whole Chung King Mansion experience was a bit weird, and a bit underwhelming after what we’d read. I’d expected it to be more bazaar (and more bizarre) but it just turned out to be a shoddy complex of apartment blocks with all the interesting stuff hidden behind locked doorways.

Deciding to Downsize?

Our other major errand today was to replace the rear pannier that broke in our mini-accident near Emei Shan.

We traipsed around to a couple of bike shops, but came out empty handed. The first shop we visited, Bull Bike, was nice but had nothing appropriate. The other, Flying Ball, had terrible service, with one overzealous English speaker who knew nothing and the boss who was not interested in helping us. All of their panniers came in pairs, and we couldn’t convince them to let us buy just one.

So many signs, Hong Kong.

So many signs, Hong Kong.

The frustration of trying to replace our bag got Jane scheming. She is now devising a way we can get rid of another two panniers. Two big panniers. This would definitely be less expensive than buying a new replacement one. It would mean getting rid of the stove, and really looking at what else we could send back home.

Jane’s note: I have been inspired by the ultralight crowd, who point out, quite rightly, that panniers are heavy even when they’re empty. If we can stuff all of our extra goodies into our two dry bags (which we are currently carrying around empty) then we save money and weight.

Food For Thought

When we were heading home we were both pretty exhausted, this being our first full day out since we got to Hong Kong. We couldn’t decide between going to a restaurant, getting take away, or stopping by the market and getting food to cook.

After much discussion and second-guessing, home cookin’ won, so we stopped by one of the market stalls near the apartment and picked up a few vegetables. The restaurant we were considering going to would have cost about 400 HKD for dinner. If we’d got take away it would also have come with (compostable) packaging. Instead we spent about 20 HKD on vegetables and got some noodles at the shop.

PBR truck, Hong Kong.

PBR truck, Hong Kong.

Dinner took about 25 minutes to prep and cook. Jane prepped, I cooked. It was easy, quick, and delicious.

I wish I could do a Learn to Cook section in my yoga classes. Most people we meet don’t cook at all. It’s mostly because they don’t know how to cook, or what to cook, so it’s easier for them to go to a local restaurant. In big cities, local food delivery services mean you don’t even have to go out to get food.

That food comes in lots of packaging that gets thrown in the trash, which isn’t very good for the world, now is it? There is a huge amount of waste (food, packaging, and energy) involved in running a restaurant, which also has a major impact on the earth and the people around you.

Learning to cook means you get healthier, tastier, and more earth friendly food. Plus, you get too eat exactly what you want.

Why not start by taking a few lessons from Vegan Black Metal Chef?  


  1. Pingback: Passion People | My Five Acres

  2. Comment by ariel

    ariel January 2, 2014 at 11:23 am

    If we can get some sponsorship, I’ll happily join you on the road and teach super basic yoga cooking classes in tandem with your yoga classes!!!

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane January 4, 2014 at 2:08 am

      Perfect. I smell a business idea.

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