Sunday, January 10, 2016

Chungking Mansions

This time when I was planning a trip to Hong Kong I wanted a gritty ethnic experience, and decided to stay in the infamous Chungking Mansions. I had no idea how gritty and how ethnic that would turn out to be.

All my previous experiences of cheap Hong Kong hotels could be described as "small but livable" and I tend to assume that bad reputation of various places is overblown. Well, it wasn't.

I heard that the place was renovated, cleaned up, etc. All of this seems to refer only to fire alarms, sprinklers and security cameras, which is nice but not enough.

The building has 5 blocks, each of whom has two elevators: one goes only to he even floors, and one goes only to the odd floors.  The elevators are equipped with security cameras, and people who are waiting in line for an elevator get to see what the people currently in the elevator are doing there. This included, but was not limited to, checking their phones, and the cameras were conveniently located for all of us to see each others' security patterns and other passwords.

The true hell is the ground floor of the building, filled with all kinds of gentlemen from various countries trying to sell genuine fake watches and genuine fake SIM cards to everyone who walks by.

I had a reservation in a place called Peace Guest house. When I arrived there I showed the reservation to the guy at the reception, and he grabbed my phone and ran somewhere with it. I demanded it back, he said that it's OK, I said that it's most definitely not OK and ran after him. After consulting with a coworker he said that they have cancelled my reservation. I told him that that's not how reservations work, and he told me that he doesn't know or care what it says on, but my reservation is cancelled, they don't have any rooms left, and I should go elsewhere. I demanded some written proof that I was there and the guy said it was OK. I said it was most definitely not OK and told him to write it down. He said he couldn't write in English. I told him to write it in Chinese. He got scared at told me he cannot write anything at all without the permission from the big bosses on the Mainland.

Anyways, I found myself another hotel in the same building. It was fearsome to behold, but it had a working toilet, a working shower in the toilet a working internet and a bed that didn't do "bed kaput" every night, or indeed any night. The place even had a water boiler in the hall so one could even have tea. On the minus side, the place was overrun by little ants, and you could hear everything that you neighbors were doing. On the night that the restaurants downstairs served beans there was both the sound and the smell effect.

The security was fantastic, with the door code 987654, and the WIFI password abcd1234.

The most horrible thing were the restaurants downstairs. I usually like the food from the Indian subcontinent well enough; this was some evil cousin of the real Indian food, or maybe all the chefs were the people who were forcibly exiled from India and/or Pakistan for being a huge disgrace to the local food culture.

The most amazing thing was that at some point a couple of guys started to sell drugs outside the building.   I'd never seen that in Hong Kong before. I asked them if they would like to talk to the police about it, and they disappeared.

But hey, at least the location was good.

A new culture of sexual harassment

I've been following the public debate on whether or not the Middle Eastern and African immigrants have brought with them a new culture of sexual harassment, with some people saying that yes, they did, and other people saying that Finnish men have been harassing Finnish women since time immemorial.

Frankly, I don't see how those things are mutually exclusive.  Finnish men have been harassing women since time immemorial, and  Middle Eastern and African immigrants have brought with them a new culture of sexual harassment: more violent, more frequent and more persistent. My claim of "more violent" comes from the crime statistics; more frequent and more persistent are just personal experience.

Finnish men have, on a countless number of occasions, informed me that I have big tits (and appeared to expect me to treat this as new information), informed me that they have an erection (which can be a joyful occasion, but not when a total stranger tells you about it at the bus stop and expects you to do something about it other than laugh and point). When I was young they also offered me money for services (not programming of the web services, although I did try to offer that), but I got the impression that this is less common nowadays, even for young women. They have also occasionally tapped me on the butt in clubs, and on one memorable occasion one of them grabbed my breast and twisted it at Tietokilta's yearly party sometime in 1997 or thereabouts (I still regret not filing a police report; but the person in question apologized when he ran into me in a street 2 years later).

What Finnish have not usually done is following me around and demanding sex even after being told "no" numerous times. I also don't recall them demanding an explanation for a "no".  They haven't retorted to "I have a boyfriend" with "he doesn't have to know anything", or "how long have you been together? isn't two years enough?". They have certainly not continued on that with "but can you take me to your bed anyway?".

Of course none of that is new either. Middle Eastern and African immigrants were doing it in the 90s already.

None of this is meant as an excuse for the Finnish idiots who scream "tits!" like they've never seen any tits in real life before (even if they haven't), but it is more annoying to say "no" 20 times to the same guy than to say it once.

EDIT: Remembered another assault by a Finnish man. I was at a perfectly normal party talking to some perfectly normal people when a sociologist came from behind and bit me on the shoulder. The sociologist was encouraged to go home after that.

Keeping the king's peace

In the wake of the New Year's eve's sexual assaults Vienna's police chief Gerhard PĆ¼rstl advised women not to go out on the streets at night alone, and said that they should avoid suspicious looking areas. The story doesn't say which areas Vienna's police chief considers to be suspicious, although I would love to hear that.

To quote the Game of Thrones,  "If you cannot keep the king's peace, perhaps the City Watch should be commanded by someone who can". This is a fair point, and the Green party security spokesman said something along those lines, too.  Janos Slynt, the guy in the Game of Thrones to whom those words are addressed, answers something along the lines of "even Aegon the Dragon couldn't keep the king's peace with that budget", which is also a fair point.

What's not a fair point is the idea that half of the population should stay inside after dark, or hire bodyguards. During my lifetime I've heard various police officers and politicians suggest that, and I always keep wondering what the hell are they thinking. Even apart from the lack of factual sense in it (because most sexual assaults happen inside, because men are attacked outside more often than women and any such protection measures should be first aimed at them, because in the situations like the New Year in Cologne the presence of men didn't help much - when there are 10 attackers it doesn't matter much whether there is 1 or 2 of you - because most women cannot afford to hire a bodyguard, and because if all the women could in fact afford to hire a bodyguard some of those bodyguards would turn out to be the people that they should be guarding themselves from), do those people actually realize what they are asking? They are not asking for some easy self-protection measure, they are asking for half of the population to either adhere to a curfew or hire bodyguards.

I can understand that sometimes the police fail, don't have enough resources, have to many criminals to attend to, etc. But when it's actually the case, it's time to arm the population. A gun is a lot cheaper than a bodyguard, and a lot easier to carry around with you.

I don't really think we are quite at that stage yet here in Finland, but if we ever get there, I'd expect the authorities either to put up and keep the peace in the streets, or shut up and start giving out licenses for concealed carrying. Mind you, I vastly prefer the former, but if the authorities can't do it, we need the latter, and not some stupid advice about staying home.