Day 2,528 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).
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I wonder if there’s anything I haven’t written about Hong Kong which needs to be said?
Last weeks entry: I wonder if hell is really that bad
I don’t know if I love this place or if I just feel accustomed to my surroundings. I certainly haven’t worked out how to leave yet. I can go on for hours about how amazing Hong Kong is. It truly is a very pleasant place to be stuck with lots of opportunities. My accommodation is top notch!! For more than a month I have been the “caretaker” of an apartment while the owner is abroad. This came into place thanks to several of the Danish Vikings here in Hong Kong. Vikings were astonishing explorers, traders and conquerors from Scandinavia who were active some 1200-years ago. The spirit lives on today. Hong Kong is tropical and these days we have typhoons whizzing by left and right. So far they haven’t hit us yet but they have been ravaging our neighbours. It’s very humid here and temperatures are relatively high. An empty apartment could quickly find itself inhabited by insects and fungi around here.
People being people.
When the Saga first arrived to Hong Kong back in January we were still all trying to work out where the heck Wuhan was on a map. Most people didn’t know the expression ‘novel-coronavirus’ and “flatten the curve” had not entered headlines yet. I was scheduled to leave again after only four days and received an invitation to stay with the amazing Savagar’s (James, Cassie, Edward and Harry) in Sai Kung. That then turned out to become my “home” for five months! Here’s what the internet has to say about Sai Kung:
The Sai Kung peninsula is known for its quaint fishing villages and hiking paths. One of the most popular destinations is Sai Kung town, where a busy floating seafood market supplies the al fresco waterfront eateries. Elsewhere, walking trails criss-cross 2 country parks, taking in sweeping views and volcanic rock columns at High Island Reservoir. Tai Long Wan Bay has quiet sandy beaches popular with surfers.
Afterwards Hong Kong’s Vikings set me up in Wong Chuk Yeung village in Fo Tan for a month. There I got to know the Andersen Clan quite well (Thomas, Natali and Luis) as they lived close by the apartment. Here’s what the internet has to say about Fo Tan:
Fo Tan is an area of Sha Tin, New Territories, Hong Kong. It was developed as a light industrial area, but this activity has declined markedly in recent years. There are residential areas to the east, alongside the MTR line, and in the foothills to the west.
Now I’m taking care of an apartment in Tsuen Wan West. It’s my third “home” in Hong Kong and yet again completely new surroundings. The internet has this to say:
Tsuen Wan West is situated at the west of Tsuen Wan, New Territories, Hong Kong, along Castle Peak Road between Yau Kam Tau and Chai Wan Kok. There are mainly private residential estates, including Belvedere Garden, Bayview Garden, Greenview Court, the Panorama and Serenade Cove. The largest one is Belvedere Gardens.
Lately it has been my great pleasure to catch up with both Thomas from the Andersen Clan and all four Savagar’s. Thomas and I almost spent a full day together starting out with lunch at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, hanging out at one of my favourite cafes, getting a few beers at a bar and having dinner with yet another Viking. Thomas is such a good guy and we had lots to talk about. A few days later I made my way out to Sai Kung for a home cooked dinner with the Savagar’s. Wow! Cassie still hasn’t lost her touch in the kitchen! Everyone seemed to be doing well. The boys were playing Minecraft while James and I sat and discussed the world situation. That family will forever be in my heart.
In the bus heading to Sai Kung. Infrastructure is great in Hong Kong.It takes a few hours to get there from Tsuen Wan West.
People seem to be leaving. It has been a while since Ole and his family left for Singapore. Then Leon and his family left for Czechia. Brett, Emma and little Grace left for Australia but are temporarily coming back at some point. Pavel and his girlfriend recently went to China / Tibet and will not be back for a while. And finally, there’s Svend and Ophelia who went back to Denmark and may not be back again this year. I truly know a lot of people across Hong Kong but those mentioned still make up a good portion. Meanwhile I have become fairly established. I shop for groceries, I cook, I clean, I do the laundry and my clothes is neatly stacked within a closet. Will it soon be my turn to leave Hong Kong? Who knows? It doesn’t look promising. I recently went to get my Hong Kong visa extended for the third time. Hopefully it will be approved. Hong Kong immigration has never disappointed so far and they have made my life here very easy. And that is certainly something to be grateful for.
Future first man to row across the North West Passage?
I really like the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. It has a particular charm and the staff is always very kind and professional. I’ve met a lot of people through the club and regularly frequent it. Last week I met up with Mark Agnew from Scotland who writes for the South China Morning Post (SCMP). Mark is a cool guy with an adventurer’s spirit within his heart. So much so that he tried to cross the Atlantic twice in a rowboat but so far unsuccessfully. On one occasion they had to get rescued by helicopter! In 1845 the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus set sail on a polar expedition hoping to find the North West Passage. The ships were last seen entering Baffin Bay in August 1845 and nobody ever returned from the expedition. Times have changed. We now have satellite images of the entire planet and due to climate change the North West Passage is now open and free of ice for two months every year. That is a sad thing but great if you hope to be the first to manoeuvre a rowboat through the North West Passage! And Mark intends on exactly that!! The project has aptly been named ‘North West Passage 2021’ and can be followed on FB and IG as NWP2021. The project is looking for sponsorship and hopes to raise funds through sales of their own brand of gin as well :)
Future youngest Australian to reach every country in the world?
Mark was not the only new face I came across at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club. I met up with the kind Kate Whitehead who also writes for SCMP. We have known each other since early February. Kate invited Daniel Herszberg from Australia who has now reached 183 countries. He once aspired to be the youngest Australian to reach every country in the world and may still become that. But he has since fallen in love with the world and sees it much more important to promote it through his ever-growing audience on IG: @dhersz. He’s very skilfully promoting Hong Kong right now through his Instagram stories. Dan is a 28 year-old lawyer and a really good guy. We both know Drew Binsky who I met in Bangkok now long ago. Drew is a Youtube-star with millions of followers across socialmedia having now reached 191 countries. It’s been a while since I heard from him though. Kate wanted to interview Dan and I for SCMP and brought a photographer (Jon) who did a bunch of photos with us.
Dan and I posing while Jon photographs. This photo was taken by Kate.
Yeah, so I’m still keeping up socially here in the Kong. Even made it out hiking a few times in spite of thunder and lightning. That has been the weather pattern here lately. For a very long time I’ve been wanting to see the wishing tree in Lam Tsuen. It turns out that there are four wishing trees. People go there to throw oranges at them. Yup - true story. One tree grants wishes regarding exams, another fertility and a third is for more general wishes. I can’t remember the last one but if it was for getting onboard a ship and reaching Palau, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and The Maldives then I would throw tons of oranges at it! Two oranges are tied together and if they stay on the tree then the wish may be granted. If the oranges fall down then you can simply try again. The original tree couldn’t handle the weight and was replaced by a plastic tree. But it was closed off from the public when I went there due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The plastic wishing tree.
I went with Belinda who’s a local Hongkonger. We’ve hiked together a few times before. While hiking we walked along Route Twisk which is a public road. It cuts through some military barracks. Belinda and I were walking along the sidewalk when I heard a man shouting. I looked up and saw some twenty soldiers training at a sports facility off the side of the road. It was visible from the sidewalk and I wanted to take a closer look. A young uniformed man seemed to be rehearsing crowd control while the other soldiers were watching. He was outfitted with a see-through shield while moving slowly forward and shouting commands. I’ve been through something similar myself during my United Nations training many years ago. Belinda suggested that we should ignore them as we likely would be told to go away. But I said let’s see and stopped to observe. Sure enough one of the uniformed spectators ran across the sports ground in our direction and stopped on the other side of the mesh fence where he stood attention with his hands by his side. Then he shouted something at us. I looked at Belinda who speaks Cantonese but not Mandarin. The soldier wasn’t far from us. Belinda kindly asked in English if he wanted us to move but the soldier did not speak English. So another soldier ran over and stood attention next to him and also shouted some command at us in Mandarin. He also didn’t speak any English. We were not ignorant and both imagined that we were being told to leave. The situation was slightly comical and both soldiers were smiling and friendly. Belinda once again asked if we should leave and gestured the same message with her arms. One of the soldiers nodded and we smiled and left. We were at no point taking photos or had our phones in our hands. We were on a public sidewalk by a public road. Change is upon Hong Kong which was recently intensified with the wide-ranging new security law for Hong Kong which was passed by China. According to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, Hong Kong is to be reunited with the mainland in 2047. I wrote about this in one of my first entries after reaching Hong Kong. Perhaps we were in our right to stand on the sidewalk and peacefully observe the soldiers who were not hidden from the public behind the mesh fencing. However, after the implementation of the new security law there was no reason to push our luck. If you are from Scandinavia then such a thing would seem incredibly foreign to you. But the reality in many countries around the world expresses that it is unwise to question authority.
It's always good to see Belinda!
Hong Kong is nothing but a concrete jungle! Yeah right ;)
On another day I was out hiking again. This time with Seth from ‘For Something More’. This was our second hike together and we wanted to bring our friend Andrew who originally introduced us. But Andrew twisted his knee a while ago and is still recovering. Seth and I agree that nature is a healing environment. I certainly smile more when I’m on a dirt path surrounded by nature. A lot of good conversations are had between the trees. It was no different for us.
New beard skills. Hanging out with Seth at Pottinger Peak.
Immigration is really efficient in Hong Kong. I have had zero issues since I arrived. What a relief! If immigration around the world had been as straightforward and professional as in Hong Kong then it would be a lot easier to reach every country in the world. The two foremost challenges are red tape and logistics. If there was no red tape and public transportation existed into every country then the achievement would be far less. I’m sure some would argue that you need money and time but really you don’t need to see that as a great hindrance. Money can be made along the way and the journey can be relatively inexpensive. I have reached 194 of the targeted 203 countries on a USD 20 / day budget. That doesn’t quite suffice for me in Hong Kong but it works as a global average. Time is a choice for most. It’s all about what you are willing to sacrifice. I wonder if I have time? Am I willing to gamble my shot at starting a family with the woman I love vs reaching every country without flying?
Applied for my third extension. Fingers crossed that it is approved.
Media seems to continue its same approach. Every time I listen to the news, I convince myself that the world is on fire. And fortunately, the Red Cross Red Crescent is out there to make a difference. I have fortunately seen enough of the world to know that it isn’t the case - the fire I mean. In fact the world is getting better year by year. It seemed to bypass most that wild polio was eradicated in Africa this year. THAT IS BIG NEWS!! Africa declared free of wild polio is a milestone achievement! It’s a huge continent which easily fits in the USA, China, India, Europe and Japan all at once. Africa has fifty-four countries and is this planets most diverse continent. And now it is free of wild polio! That is great news. But what popped up on my twitter feed: “a microphone slipped off the podium twice as Jared Kushner prepared to speak after landing in the UAE” (Reuters). My goodness we need to get a grip on the news we share. I find it far more useful to the general public that I recently researched whether MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) is bad for us? Let’s briefly head back to my caretaker role of the apartment. I do my own shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry etc. My breakfast is quite healthy and consists of oatmeal with milk, raisins and banana along with a cup of tea. Dinner is typically meat with pasta or rice. Now lunch seems to be the lazy one. I quite frequently go with a portion of instant soup and that definitely contains MSG. I had to know if I was killing myself! A quick google search revealed that I was going to be fine. MSG is perfectly safe in moderate amounts as found within food. Experts say that if you go completely overboard and fill yourself with soy sauce every day for the rest of your life then it still wouldn’t be MSG which killed you. Experts say that MSG is a very safe additive in food and can be found in a wide range of products. For most people who “overdose” on MSG the reaction would typically be a short-lasting headache. However, it is really hard to get to much MSG through regular food. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) we can eat 30 mg of MSG per kg bodyweight every day from we are born until we die and for most people it would have no effect at all. So, I guess I’ll keep eating my easy lunch.
The world, not just Hong Kong, offers tremendous beauty for those who seek it.
On a closing note, congratulations to my youngest sister who recently celebrated yet another birthday. Or as I know it: one more trip around the sun without falling off the planet. I love both my sisters, my mom and my dad. I love my friends and cannot wait until we once again can meet and hug. I love my fiancée. I have basically not had any physical contact with another human being for nearly a year now apart from handshakes and fist bumps. To all of you who can hug and touch your loved ones: do not underestimate it.
I will shave when I see her!
Stay safe and sane everyone. I have had my first session with a psychiatrist and intend to continue for a while. It’s my first time with a psychiatrist and so far, I don’t think it can hurt. To express oneself in a safe environment with another human being is a good thing.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - still hanging in there
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga