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...