Hong Kong: The Amah Invasion

photo: Miss 13 Dots from the Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars

Life-size sculpture of a colourfully dressed female comic character

Joy Cuisine was too good to not go back to, so I went there again for breakfast and had shui mai (same as yesterday, a favourite of mine they do very well), cheong fun - rice rolls with barbeque pork, and pan-fried pork buns.

I had a day on the island all planned out ... but got totally detoured on the way to the Star Ferry. First by Kowloon Park, which I hadn't visited before, and the discovery of the "Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Stars," where they've recreated a variety of locally famous comic characters at life size and quite colourfully. I probably photographed half of them - including McDull, a favourite(?) of my Hong Kong expert.

I came out the other side of Kowloon Park at the China Ferry Pier, where I felt morally obligated to walk the length taking pictures all the way. It was interesting to see an entire wedding ceremony (oh yeah - it's Sunday) set up in the middle of this public space. It's a nice space, no doubt, but I thought the giant crane of the dredger by the pier kind of threw the ambiance off slightly.

Then inside the pier to find out about the Macau Ferry: $170HK one way, and arrive half an hour before departure (you have to go through customs). Transit takes about an hour.

From the pier, another rather larger pier was interfering with my view of the far end of the island. So I thought "that pier would be a great place for a picture." Understand when I say "pier" that I mean a multi-level building that goes out into the bay and may or may not be used for mooring boats. So I made my way down to the bigger pier to find that it's the "Ocean Terminal," a large and flashy mall. I walked out through this shiny and soulless place, only to find that the top end of the pier is essentially a car park. I went up anyway. And the side with the interesting view had a massive cruise boat moored to it, almost entirely blocking the view.

Seriously? You created one of the best view-points in HK, and you made it into a car park? There's some hope - the very end of the pier is under construction, although my guess is it'll be a $600HK a plate restaurant and bar ...

And finally onto the Star Ferry around 1300. That really is a wonderful ride - they run frequently, and it costs about $0.45CAN.

The Rough Guide mentioned that on Sundays, the amahs take over the park around City Hall. Hong Kong's largest immigrant population (I say these things with such authority and so little actual knowledge) is Filipino - almost all women, and mostly maids/nannies ("amahs:" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amah_(occupation) ). And Daniel independently mentioned this weekly event, as a friend of his knew someone who had worked in HK for 10 years and taken part in the gatherings. But I'd argue they both pretty severely understated the scale of the invasion: I never saw City Hall, but man, I saw the attendees. They take over sidewalks and raised walkways for 10+ blocks in every direction. I saw what amounted to a box-packing party, where the sidewalk had become impassible for a couple blocks while they packed boxes a metre on a side by stuffing clothes in them and then jumping on them (not all of them were doing this, but I definitely saw it done a couple times). Anyone who's used DealExtreme or Alibaba knows that shipping from Hong Kong is some of the cheapest in the world: I guess that's true for big boxes to the Philippines as well. But mostly the amahs are sitting in groups on flattened boxes, chatting or eating. Some of the groups have left the sides on the boxes, creating their own miniature rooms. I don't think it was co-incidental that one of the more heavily populated walkways was lined with currency exchange bureaus, all of which seemed to be doing brisk business.

I made my way back to Tsim Chai Kee for lunch: more ping-pong ball wonton (they're notorious for making them quite large), plus greens with oyster sauce. No line-up this time, just busy.

I managed to find the Museum of Teaware, which was good for about half an hour: I had managed to forget since Japan just how obsessive people get about their tea. 99.9% of the population just drinks it without thinking about it, but there are people who take it at least as seriously as hardcore whisky or wine drinkers. Most of the displays were of teaware, most of the videos were about tea.

My next stop was the Zoological and Botanical Gardens. Small but fun: cranes, flamingos, several primates.

The next step in the plan was to stroll the length of Hollywood Road, looking at the antiques, tourist tat, and antiques-that-are-actually-tourist-tat that makes up the stock-in-trade on that street. Unfortunately Sunday doesn't seem to have been the best day for it: more than half the stores were shuttered, and the same applied to Upper Lascar Row (aka Cat Street, former den of thieves). I was rather fond of the mechanical Chairman Mao watches I saw at at least two vendors: they had a smiling Mao, regular watch hands, and a third appendage that was the good Chairman's arm waving back and forth on the second count.

photo: on a set of stairs going down from Hollywood Road

Bizarrely skeletal and colourful graffiti, with cat in its lap

I stopped in at the local Man Mo temple: similar huge coils of incense hanging from the ceiling, but hardly any burning. The European body-builder and his tightly dressed woman taking photos of themselves bowing and praying, and placing incense.

I went to Brewdog at Hollywood and the Upper Levels Escalator - I noticed them my first day, and have been meaning to get there ever since. They seem to think of themselves as a brew pub, but home base is in the Netherlands(?) and I think the brewing is done there. The bartender spoke very good English - which may have been why he felt comfortable staying in Toronto with a friend for a few months. I asked him where he'd stayed, and he said "I don't even know." All of which came up because they had a bottle of Flying Monkeys beer. He asked if I wanted it, but I said I hadn't come all this way to drink a hometown beer ... I got a Mocha stout for a slightly ridiculous $80HK, and - having delivered it - he tried to flirt with the waitress. She in turn went off to the kitchen to flirt with the cook. Apparently he was very funny: she laughed a lot. I also had some onion rings for $88HK. They were superb onion rings, but $15CAN for six onion rings still seems a little steep.

On the walk back to Central at 1800, I found the amah invasion was still going full force. I took a few pictures, although I always feel a little uncomfortable pointing my camera at people, particularly ones I don't know.

Got some Maxim buns on the MTR. The MTR is fine with businesses inside the stations selling you food and drink. You just can't consume any of it while you're on the MTR. Central/Hong Kong station is probably the MTR's biggest interchange station, and it's really big: I think I walked a good 500m getting from the entry to the train line I needed. Rode back to the hotel (again, if you want to enjoy the view, you ride the Star Ferry ... if you want to get places, you get on the MTR).

photo: The story this tells - or at least suggests - is both alarming and hilarious

Broken-down Rolls-Royce in full wedding regalia