Hong Kong and Japan

After departing Vietnam in late April I traveled to Hong Kong and Japan.  It was nice to get out of Vietnam and away from the crazy traffic with insane motorcyclists especially in Hanoi.  I’d been warned about watching out for the traffic in Hanoi.  But nothing could have prepared me for the ruthless way that people on motorcycles ignore red lights and pedestrian crossings.

After spending 3 weeks in Vietnam it became clear to me that this is not a socialist country by any stretch of the imagination.  Ho Chi Minh would be appalled that what he fought so hard for during his life has become one of the worst forms of capitalism on earth.

The socialist experiment ended in the mid-1990s when the government realized that the people were very lazy and unproductive under the socialist regime.  So, they abandoned that model and let everyone start their own business if they desired.  This has led to a bizarre form of capitalism where you find people engaging in all sorts of unrelated businesses at the same time. 

A single store front will have a sign that says, “laundry service, money exchange, taxi, tour guide, massage, etc. You don’t know if the taxi will show up or if you will get your laundry back and you have no recourse in this wild-west style of capitalism.

Also, pedestrians have no rights and are considered to be at the bottom of the social strata.  It may be called the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, but any hint of socialism went out the window 3 decades ago.  A local explained to me that crossing the street is dangerous because pedestrians are considered expendable and the nicer your car the higher your social status.  Take that Ho Chi Minh!

I was having difficulty crossing the street in Nha Trang.  So, a policeman stepped out into traffic and held up a stop sign.  It made no difference.  The cars kept whizzing by even with him in the middle of the road.

Now Hong Kong and Japan were much more civilized.  HK is like a Chinese version of New York City.  Very densely populated, lots of tall buildings, traffic, subway system, modern airport, great food and lots of cultural attractions.  Hong Kong Park is a lot like Central Park in NYC.  And the aviary was delightful.  I think Spumoni would have liked to spend time in the aviary especially since one of his friends was a blue jay at Lake Tahoe.

One of the highlights was taking the tram up to Victoria Peak.  While it doesn’t go all the way to the summit it gets you to a spectacular view point overlooking all of HK and the harbor plus the surrounding mountains.  The ride across the harbor on the Star Ferry was another treat and gave a whole different perspective. 

Seeing Hong Kong and Japan on the same trip provided an interesting contrast in cultures.  The first stop was up north in Aomori to see the cherry blossoms at Hirosaki Castle.  I caught the tail end of the colors but they were still magnificent.  The castle itself is nothing special except from an historical perspective.  You won’t confuse it with Windsor Castle of the Palace of Versailles.  But the gardens and landscaping are very nice.

Then it was down to Kyoto for a look at some temples, palaces and monuments.  The word palace is used very loosely to describe old wooden buildings where the emperors and shoguns used to reside.  But when you realize they were built 800 to 1200 years ago the sense of history is palpable.

I had the best lunch of my entire life at Mouriya Gion in Kyoto.  A5 Kobe Filet Mignon with lobster, soup, salad, grilled vegetables and dessert.  Crazy expensive but well worth it.

2024 is a great time to visit Hong Kong and Japan.  The dollar is very strong against both currencies.  Hotel rooms are small and relatively expensive.  But food, plane flights, entrance fees to sights, etc. are cheap by American and European standards.  Spumoni was with me in spirit and I’m sure he would have enjoyed the scenery and especially the aviary in HK.

I’ll be posting more photos in the near future. Wrapping up things in Seoul and then off to Jeju Island on Thursday. Don’t forget that Friday May 10th is International Spumoni Day and please say a prayer or some good thoughts in his memory.