Day 29 - Hong Kong Day 2

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

A disappointing day today. After the amazing experiences we have had here over the past few days today ended with confusion and disappointment. It is getting near the end of our holiday and I think we are both tired and our patience is wearing thin. Being away for such a long time is great but I don't think I could be a full time tourist!

Road Along the Harbour on Hong Kong Island

The congee at the same restaurant as yesterday was not as good. I should have stuck to the “house” congee (basically, they can put whatever they want in it, in this case this included prawns) I ordered yesterday but decided to go for something else (chicken, I think) that was no where near as good. The staff do seem to have recognised us from yesterday…

Construction in the City (SW)

Across the harbour once again we had a few hours so stopped by the “Hong Kong Museum of Art”. This is one of my favourite places in Hong Kong with absolutely fantastic exhibits. My particular favourite, which we spent some time in, is the display devoted to paintings and calligraphy. The last time mother and I were here we spent a long time observing the scrolls and the different types of writing. Even though we cannot understand the words we can recognise the artistry in the writing and appreciate it. This time the exhibit seemed a lot smaller but enjoyable nonetheless (we were even given a gift by the staff of a small reproduction scroll). A large exhibition has pretty much taken over the museum, “Treasures of the World's Cultures from the British Museum”, and as I live in the UK (and mother visits often) we gave this a miss. It was attracting large crowds but we skirted them to visit the permanent displays instead. The exhibit on ancient pottery was also very good.

View Out of Window in the Museum of Art

The museum is right on the harbour along between the Cultural Centre and the Science Museum. I walk through the Cultural Centre all the time to see what events are coming up though I have only been to the Science Museum once on my first visit (I am more interested in local culture than global science when I am visiting here).

All along the harbour is the promenade. This is a public park that is enjoyed by young and old alike at all hours of the day. Just along from the Museum of Art along the promenade is the “Avenue of Stars”. This is a series of statues of famous Hong Kong movie stars (such as “Bruce Lee” and, of course, “Jackie Chan”) and plaques devoted to them. It was here that we met our lunch date: Raymond.

Waiting by Bruce Lee (SW)

Raymond has been a friend since he attended the same university as I did in Canada. When I first visited with my friend Michael in 1997 we stayed with Raymond and his wife in Kowloon. They have now moved and live in the New Territories and have two children, a son and daughter.

We only had to wait for a few minutes until Raymond showed up: He has not changed at all since we saw him on our last visit. He had a bit of a surprise for us as we were to have lunch with his wife and children! This is really very good as I have not seen his wife since 1997 and never met his children. It was to be a delightful lunch. Raymond showed us down some streets to the hotel in which we had a very good dim sum lunch (he insisted on paying…suggesting that when he comes to visit us then we can pay…). He took great delight in ordering things that he knew we would enjoy (though I added a few things to the list myself…).

“Dim sum”, for those of you unfamiliar, is typically enjoyed at lunch and consists of a number of small dishes typically including dumplings (fried or steamed), vegetables and other delicacies. I tend to believe that one should enjoy it at leisure, savouring both the food and company. In this case we certainly did both. Raymond, his wife Ava (Avery), their son Isaac and (shy) daughter Lok Yiu were a real joy. We got along very well and had a fantastic visit. I hope to see them again soon.

Nathan Road

After our pleasant lunch we headed west back towards Nathan Road with nature calling us quite strongly we visited a government-operated information centre devoted to hygiene located in the south-eastern corner of Kowloon Park. I think they take this quite seriously with the problems in recent years with the bird flu and SARS. Mother and I found the exhibits interesting but were more anxious for the little girls and boys rooms in the back…

Kowloon Park

A bit less anxious, we headed into the park itself. I have always enjoyed this park with it's many walkways interestingly weaving in and around the landscape with art scattered throughout the trees, parks and ponds. Being a Saturday the park was quite busy. It was also quite hot so some ice cream from a McDonald's stall (!) really helped the situation (chocolate dipped!).

Kowloon Park

Back to Nathan Road we entered into the big MTR (subway) station, Tsim Sha Tsui, and took the train north to Mong Kok station. This is what I remember in Hong Kong: Narrow, crowded street markets.

Street Market

The buildings crowd on either side of the street lurking overhead with their dirty faces and cables strung here and there. The street is a hive of activity with stalls set up on the pavement (sidewalk), on the street or simply in the shops themselves. No chance of any vehicles getting through as we shoved our way along the crowded street. The first market we visited is devoted to clothing, called the “Ladies Market”. From here we headed a block east then another block north to the “Goldfish Market” which we found very interesting with bags of (pet) fish hanging from mesh screens at pretty much every shop and stall we passed. Every kind of fish you could think of was on sale here and it was amazing how they are displayed in their transparent plastic bags. The tanks, of course, are also full of fish. The street was packed with pet owners looking for something to brighten up their personal fish tanks. Other pets were also on display (such as dogs and cats) but largely the market is devoted to fish.

Fish Market

We were slowly headed north. Just a few more blocks to the northeast and we were in the flower market. Not as big as the goldfish or ladies markets it was much prettier with orchids having pride of place everywhere we looked. Older people were carefully examining the plants on display very carefully and stall owners obviously cared for the presentation of their plants and treated them very well. Amazing displays. Shame we cannot really take any with us…nor the fish for that matter.

Flower Market

Speaking of things we cannot take with us we headed down a side street from Prince Edward Road West in Mong Kok just beside the train line to Yeun Po Street Bird Garden. This has really changed quite significantly since my last visit. Back then the bird market was a tiny alley packed with bird cages containing hundreds of birds in cramped quarters. With the outbreak of the bird flu they have come up with this purpose-built “garden” where birds can be displayed and sold in relative safety.

Birds for Sale

The “garden” is a series of lanes with stalls on either side. It is quite a relaxed area compared to the hustle of the other markets we had visited nearby. Compared to the old market this is very light and airy and a much more pleasant place. The cages are not only full of birds but also (live) crickets and locusts (for feeding). The place was alive with interesting sounds and sights. We sat for a few minutes in a small square and watched several large cages full of budgies and finches. A young couple purchased a finch and it was placed in a paper bag (!) for them and they went off happy. There are trees all around in the market and the whole place is very clean – Very much like a garden, I suppose.

Bird Garden

It has been a long day and it was not, unfortunately, going to get any shorter as we took the MTR once again, back to Jordan. We were looking for my favourite restaurant here in Hong Kong which is, funnily enough, not actually Chinese but Malaysian serving all of it's (wonderful) food on Bamboo leaves – I particularly liked it when they came around with a bamboo bucket full of coconut rice that they would then slap onto your leaf with a large spoon. I have been visiting “Bamboo Leaf” for years at it's location on Nathan Road but I was now to be disappointed: It is no longer here. After wandering fruitlessly for about 10 minutes mother and I were fed up with walking and just wanted to eat so we called Raymond (using my mobile phone with the noise of the street all around us) to see if he could find it for us. He gave us a location right near Temple Street Market and not on Nathan Road itself (a few blocks west) so we eventually found the place only to find it was closed. Signs did not look good that it would ever be open again since it was closed when the signs on the front said it should be open. I am saddened by this and will have to find another restaurant to make my favourite…Perhaps The Peak Lookout restaurant we tried on our first day on the Peak…?

Saddened, we had to have something so stopped at a small café for a couple of drinks. They were very expensive and did not serve any Chinese food so I gave eating a miss.

Kowloon Streets at Night

Visiting the Temple Street Market not much has changed here. A (large) cup of herbal tea at one of the shops along the road went down a treat as we spent quite some time walking through the stalls selling pretty much anything you can think of (near the jade section there was an interesting selection of sexual aids on display that made the mind boggle along with, bizarrely, antiques). The traders are doing a good business with still a good balance between local and tourist markets. Mother really does not have a good idea of how to haggle so I was able to help her a bit (with my experience from living in Africa) – She always accepts the first price! Oh dear. It is people like her that make the prices go up for local people…

Back to the train for a welcome sit we once again returned to Tsim Sha Tsui and headed down to the harbour. The dragon was all lit up and people were out enjoying the sight. Our last night in Hong Kong. Our last night of our whole trip. How far we have come. How much we have seen. How little we know.

Festival of Light Display

The short ferry trip across the dark waters of the harbour that reflect the city lights like a mirror. The place is alive.

The final night and I FINALLY found my Slurpee! Taking a chance we popped into the 7-11 just a few paces from the front door of our hotel and what did we find…I have travelled untold thousands of miles, visited something like 6 major cities and only in the last city on the last night did we finally find what I had been looking for all along! I was happy. Mother was bemused as I slurped on my straw and we headed back to the hotel.

7-11 and My Slurpee (SW)

Packing is always depressing. On this trip we have been doing an awful lot of it as we tend to either be packing or travelling all the time. This time it was to be the last. We are quiet as the packages and souvenirs are put into place and bags zipped up. A last look at the night of Hong Kong from our window, and the curtains are drawn.

Day 30 - Hong Kong Departure