Saturday, January 31, 2009

Day Four in Hong Kong - Morning and Evening Adventures

Last night Laura and I decided that today would be about afternoon/evening activities so the plan was to go to the night market, have dinner and see the light show on Hong Kong Island from Kowloon.

However, as I am an early riser and get restless easily I opted for my own little adventure whilst Laura slept in. I grabbed my camera and made my way downstairs and, on the way, I decided to explore the Causeway Bay waterfront. So I made my way through Victoria Park past old people exercising and other sitting on benches while reading the morning paper and to the pedestrian overpass.

Although it had been light for about an hour and a half the light was just about to hit the harbor and folks were starting to get ready for the day. On the water side of the walkway there are a number of little shanties set up to sell refreshments to passers-by. Gathered around these stalls were numerous cats and dogs. I don't know whether they belong to the stall-owners or are strays but they didn't look too mangy to me.

I found it interesting that some people obviously live on their boats. There were a few with animals wandering around onboard, others where people were heating water for their morning breakfast and still others who were brushing their teeth. One man (pictured below) seems to be responsible for collecting trash from the other boats; he's equipped with a net and a pole that he uses to grab full bags from the vessels as he passes by. Many people waved me over trying to convince me to take a tour on their somewhat rickety crafts but I declined, at least for the time being in case Laura wants to accompany me.

After a couple of hours it was beginning to get warm so I returned to the hotel to check in on Laura who had rejoined the world of the living. She had and when I got bored I left again to explore while she dealt with some digestive issues.

I read about a small temple one neighborhood away so I made my way over. Hung Shing Temple was built into a rocky hillside and was quite pretty nestled into the hustle and bustle of the city with people stopping in to light some incense and say a few prayers before continuing on their way. Behind the temple was a series of stairs that I ascended for no other reason than because they were there. I never found out where they led because the pathway was obviously not in use and was falling down the hill in places so I climbed as far as I deemed prudent before turning around and heading back to check on Laura one more time.

Apparently the worst had passed so we got a snack and relaxed watching a DVD until it was time to head out the the markets.

At the appointed hour we jumped on the MTR (Hong Kong's ultra-efficient subway system) and got off right at the Temple Street Night Market. It was only early out so many people were still setting up their goods although the crowds were already descending. We may our way from the north end to the south and were only slightly traumatized when we saw signs advertising "Cheap Sex" and were relieved, somewhat, to discover that they were purveyors of novelties of an adult nature.

A lovely clean kitchen, Mom would be proud!

The cat is being employed to guard the oranges.

When you have a stall at the Night Market everyone is expected to lend a hand.

Freshly laden with adult toys (haha, just kidding, kind of) we made a number of other purchases before reaching the end of the market and discovering our burgeoning hunger. Stomachs growling, we went in search of food but quickly realized that we didn't have any pre-chosen restaurants marked on our maps we meandered down various streets until I recognized one as being the home of an Indian eatery we had yet to try.

After taking the elevator to the second floor we arrived in impeccable style at Gaylord, an upscale place in which we were perfectly at home with the silk wallpaper, funky/modern chandeliers and gorgeous wood trim. Once we finished giggling about the name (I am giggling a bit now too) we ordered the set vegetarian dinner. It was comprised of a number of small dishes and were spicy and delicious. The dessert was a little bit of a catastrophe but we forgave them because of all the other excellent food.

Contentedly full, we headed to the promenade to await the light show put of by thirty-some buildings on Hong Kong Island. Jostled by the crowds, we took our pictures and then fled the scene to arrive back at the hotel weary but pleased with the day...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Day Three in Hong Kong - Kowloon Park

This was, for my adoring public, a rather dull day. Laura and I split up to explore some of the shopping that Hong Kong has to offer. Many stores are having sales with prices reduced by up to 80% but because we have different interests she felt our time would be better spent apart.

The only photographically interesting place I went was Kowloon Park. It houses a number of modern buildings devoted to the Chinese culture and Hong Kong's unique place in its' history. Parks here are used by all as places of rest and relaxation with the entire family or when taking a break from work. They're busy places in a city where open space is almost non-existent.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Day Two in Hong Kong - Market Crazy

Today marked our second day in Hong Kong and today we hit the various markets. While Laura was getting ready for the day I walked across the street to watch more of the old folks get take their morning exercise.

All of the markets are on Kowloon rather than Hong Kong Island so we had a little bit of a journey by underground train, known locally as the MTR. I keep being surprised at how small Hong Kong is because everything is so dense and they divide the city into a number of very small distinct neighborhoods. What seems to me to be far away is actually not all the far and might even be just a short stroll away.

We started at the northernmost point and worked south so the flower market was our first stop. Unfortunately it opens at 7am, well before most of the others, so many of the vendors had nothing left or were well picked over, but since we weren't buying anything it wasn't a huge loss. What was most impressive is that the market is a couple packed blocks long and everything arrives first thing in the morning so there are no day-old flowers waiting to be sold, most are gone early, we arrived at 9:30 and there wasn't much left.

Next we went to the bird market, adjacent to the flower market. Here we arrived early and only a few of the shops were open but it was already teaming with old men carrying their cages with their prized birds to show off to all the other old men. The craftsmanship of the cages is really amazing, the wood is carved delicately and the base is well polished, the birds eat and drink out of glazed and decorated bowls attached between the bamboo bars. In order to keep the birds from becoming anxious they put covers over the cages and don't take them off until they arrive at their destination. Those birds that aren't attractive sing sweetly and often they are the ones most prized. In some of the shops that were open cages were squeezed into every possible space and were filled with birds while others sold seed, grubs or live grasshoppers as food (they hold the grasshoppers with chopsticks and feed them to the birds one by one). The bird market is obviously the hangout for Hong Kong's grumpy old men.

It was a short walk from the bird market to the goldfish market. In some ways the goldfish market was not that different from the flower market in that many of the shops get daily deliveries of the inexpensive fish to supplement their stock of the more expensive. Many displayed their fish in little bags hung like the inventory of a dry goods establishment and the prices are clearly marked.

There were shops selling animals other than fish scattered around the street. Some sold rabbits and chinchillas and were jammed with people. There were a couple of stores that sold only large ornamental beetles and they had supplies that were obviously mass-produced just for beetle care. It must be a new trend or a simple pet to keep in a big city. The animals that Laura and I were most excited about were the variety of turtles sold throughout the market. There were all kinds of unusual turtles available for pets and many were only a few dollars!

On we went to Tin Hau Temple. In front of the temple itself is a large courtyard that was filled with men playing checkers, couples sitting and even a man painting the temple scene. Inside it was quite busy with people praying, lighting incense and hitting the bell and drum. The smoke from the incense was so thick that Laura and I made a small donation and headed for the door.

Feeling peckish, we made our way further south to the Jade Market. Filled to the brim with false antiquities and jade of varying quality, Laura and I waded into the thong of eager shopkeepers. They kept trying to push their wares into our hands while telling us that they would give us a "special price." We suspected that was a euphamism for something rather undesirable but made a few purchases of non-jade goods while we were there. Aunt Nancy said that she would be in Hong Kong before we leave so if we want jade we might ask her to come along and help us out.

Because we had a destination in mind we cut through the Reclamation Street market and made our way to Tsim Sha Tsui where our intended lunch awaited. On the way we were approached many times with offers to make us suits but we declined, somewhat forcefully because no other way is effective, and ducked down the side street leading to the restaurant.

Laura found the approach a little disconcerting because the establishment is on the second floor and you have to be buzzed through the security gate and climb a narrow flight of stairs but when we arrived our table was waiting and we enjoyed a nice lunch at Branto Pure Vegetarian Indian. Although we're had a lot of good food it was night to have something a little more familiar and a menu from which I could order anything!

After lunch we perused a few shops before heading back to the hotel to catch our collective breath. A little later in the afternoon we explore some more of our neighborhood, made a few gift purchases and by that time we were getting hungry again. The streets were packed as were most of the eateries so we gave up and ordered a little room service which, surprisingly, was quite good and no more expensive than most of the places we have eaten thus far!

After eating we watched a movie and decided to have an early night...