We are spending the next seven days in Hong Kong.
We arrived at Hong Kong airport at 5.30 pm yesterday and than caught the airport express train into Kowloon and a shuttle bus to our hotel. All in all, we were checked in to our hotel and in our room by about 6.45 pm. It doesn’t take long with an efficient immigration processes and a fast train from the airport that runs every few minutes.
This morning, we were awake early as the time zone here is 3 hours ahead of ours at home. I woke early and watched the sunrise over the harbour and while it wash’t very vivid, the light made for a good photo across the water. Our hotel is right at the bottom end of Nathan Road in Kowloon, so we get a good view over the harbour and across to Victoria Island. It was a little hazy this morning and as I begin to write this at 5.30 in the afternoon, the haze is so thick that it is now difficult to make out the shape of any of the buildings across the water.
We did a little walking tour this morning and headed to a number of the markets further up the Peninsular in the area around Prince Edward Road. We have actually done the same walk on a previous visit, but it is so interesting that we wanted to do it again. We began by catching the MTR to the fourth station up from ours at Tsim Sha Tsui and then began walking around the local neighbourhood.
The first area we found was where the flower market was located. It has obviously existed in this area for many years as the road on which it is positioned is called ‘Flower Market Road’. The market consists of dozens of shops that sell fresh flowers, seeds, bulbs and potted plants. Each small shop is a riot of colour. The roadside along the way is littered with used cardboard boxes that have labels showing the source of many of the items on sale – those include Australia, Holland, Canada as well as local sources.
A little further along the street is the Bird Park. This is where local people buy their beloved song birds. They are looked after with great care. The birds are housed in little wooden cages that are kept spotlessly clean. Many are fed crickets and grasshoppers by hand with chopsticks. Old men bring their birds in covered cages and hang them from the trees and special frames so that they can enjoy the sun. Its very interesting to watch the degree of gentle care that these birds receive. We watched a number of men taking considerable time in choosing which bird they might purchase. Birds were inspected carefully and then their cages placed back on to to the shelf, then another one was inspected until finally, one was chosen as being the best bird to buy.
Then, on the way back towards Kowloon, we encountered the goldfish market. In a small area, about the length of a block of streets, dozens of aquarium shops sold a vast variety of fish and accessories. One that sold tropical fish had tanks of colourful coral for sale. I think they must have had half of the Great Barrier Reef within their shop. Others had dozens of plastic bags with fish for sale that hung on racks in the doorways of the shops.
We continued walking back through a street market and eventually we reached the ‘Ladies Market’. This market stretched for four, or five blocks. It used to specialise in womens clothing – hence the name. Now it sells a range of products from leatherwear to electronics. It was very crowded and certainly an environment in which one needs strong bargaining skills.
By the time we finished perusing the market, it was very much time to find somewhere to sit and rest our weary legs. There are occasionally some areas around Hong Kong that the locals use which are defined ‘Sitting Out Areas’ but there were none anywhere near where we were. Fortunately, we found a Starbucks cafe, which provided a dual purpose of rehydrating and sitting down for a welcome rest. After buying some drinks, I had a brief moment of panic thinking that I had lost my wallet until I realised that I had put it back into a different pocket. Phew – quite a relief.
As we came back towards our hotel on the train, it was obvious as to how smartphones have taken over the world. Almost everyone in our area of the train was checking emails, texting or doing something else on their phone. I asked Jill, “What did people do on a train before we had this technology?” She replied, “They went to sleep”. Sure enough, behind me was a little old Chinese lady with pink panama pants, grey hair and more wrinkles than an old aged elephant. She was sound asleep. Not only that, she was the only person on the train without a smartphone. Jill was absolutely correct.
Finally, for today, we had a drink before dinner in the hotel lounge and then we headed down to the cafe for dinner. Jill had Nasegoreng and I ordered a Vietnamese Pho – a kind of noodle soup, commonly enjoyed in Vietnam as a very straightforward form of street food. (I need to backtrack a little at this point to explain that many Hong Kong Chinese people in hospitality roles use very British first names. We have encountered people who go by names such as Winston, Wilson, Gillian, Barbara and Wendy etc.). As I worked through my big bowl of Pho tonight, it seemed to get noticeably more hot and spicy as I reached further to the bottom of the bowl. On my last couple of spoonfulls and I was perspiring, sneezing and coughing, our waiter, Kenny, turned up with a couple of glasses of water announcing that “I am the fireman!”. Never has a glass of iced water been more welcome! His complimentary bowl of chocolate mouse also assisted.