Hong Kong: Markets, Hong Kong Park, and The Skyline

Breakfast this morning was at Hung Lee Kitchen, where the ham and eggs with rice was "finished" (not available) at 0800 - so I had "shrimp dumplings" which happily had a picture so I knew I was ordering what we'd generally consider "wonton soup." I was going to say something nasty about the coffee, but I've reserved judgement because it may well be "Hong Kong style," which evidently means it's with milk, sugar, and TEA. If it was just bad coffee, I could knock it: but if it's a totally different tradition that I simply don't like, that's different. Or, or ... well, you know - something like that.

photo: Signs, everywhere signs

An incredible array of signs hanging over the road

I walked up Nathan Road, the raucous, neon-flashing, tout- and tourist-lined main corridor of Kowloon. Most of the touts are trying to get you into a tailored suit, only one offered me a massage. This city has a high end watch shop every single block. And jewellery stores that display gold necklaces with plates of gold in tacky shapes (three lucky pigs, I kid you not) that are roughly the size of your face and intended to be worn around the neck ... (Okay, I don't actually know they're meant to be "lucky," but one has to assume that the jeweller didn't intend for them to be tacky - at least not as their primary trait).

I was headed for the Ladies Market, but apparently 1130 is too early for them: the street was hard to navigate for all the vendors unpacking and setting up. I was particularly taken with the underwear with cat faces on the front of them, but didn't hang around to purchase a pair. It looked a lot like the daytime version of the Night Market I saw a couple days ago.

My next stop was a little north, the (gold)fish market. This seemed a little lower key: it's a tourist draw, but the people who are shopping are locals. These are actual shops (rather than metal frame and plastic sheathing booths assembled in the street) running for about two blocks, both sides, of fish and aquarium supplies - meaning plants, turtles, aquariums, lights, regulators, pumps, and tiny white frogs.

A few months ago an art website I frequent had a number of photos from the "International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest." These people create underwater scenes in aquariums that are breathtaking ( http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/01/the-incredible-underwater-art-of-aquascaping/ - seriously, worth a few minutes of your time). One of the shops had a tank to rival the winners ... and a big sign saying "no photography." Unfortunately, that's a very common sign/opinion around here. In this case, I simply stood outside the store and shot inwards: we'll see how it comes out.

What I've failed to mention here is the walls of plastic baggies full of fish. Strange.

Further north again is the Flower Market. The stores are bigger, and they smell and look better.

And at the end of our Market series, the Bird Market. Apparently, people here like to keep birds, preferably ones that sing. And they take them for walks, or at least to hang their cages out in a park for a short time. This market was right next to a space meant for that purpose. Loud and smelly, and packed with pretty birds.

photo: The observation tower in Hong Kong Park

The double-barreled corkscrew stairs of the observation tower

After lunch I went to the Island, to Hong Kong Park. It's not a particularly large space, but they make good use of the space they have by setting up waterfalls in the steep areas, and having stairs everywhere (lots of climbing - my legs are still complaining from yesterday). And at the top we have an observation tower for you to climb ("107 steps"). One hell of a view from up there! You can't really see Kowloon, but the park clears a space around the tower and the view is great.

There's a conservatory, possibly the most meticulously arranged I've ever seen. I quite enjoyed the precision of it. Weird though: to go with the cacti they had silly stereotypes of both Mexicans and Native Indians. It's kind of amusing to see when political correctness is thrashing such images out of existence in North America.

The Aviary is a wonderful thing: it's a huge netted-in space, and the paths the visitors walk are most of the way up into the treetops. It helps that most of the birds are so totally used to humans that they happily perch two metres away from you.

From there it was a very short walk to the Peak Tram. This time the line-up was bearable, and a half hour later I was getting on the century-old funicular. The pushing to board it was spectacular: everyone wanted a good seat, and nobody was interested in being polite about it. That aside ... funiculars are fun! I love old funiculars (well, new ones too), they're fascinating.

So I got my wish, to see the view from the Peak before, during, and after sunset. During early dusk I was to be found in the McDonalds: it seemed like the most reliable, fastest, and by far the cheapest of the options available up there. And, as I've mentioned in the past, I like to look in on them to find out what they do differently in a given country. ("Look in on" doesn't usually mean "eat there," but it was convenient this time.) I had the oblong GCB (which turns out to mean "Grilled Chicken Breast") and the "Corn Pie" (you know, like "Apple Pie"). Not much else is different from the North American menus. But the paper mat under the meal was interesting: it was all about how they extensively test all their ingredients to prevent you getting food poisoning (a phrase they of course did NOT use).

I thought I was clever after that - avoiding the wait for the tram down from the peak. I found the bus depot and caught local transit down. I got on the bus immediately and congratulated myself. But the ride down was very long and twisty (with glimpses of great views) on a packed double-decker on which I couldn't really stand straight (low ceilings - at least by my standards). And then we hit the main Island traffic. So it took 35 or 40 minutes to get to Central, the MTR station I wanted to be at. Probably about the same as the tram and line-up.

I decided to take the Star Ferry back now that it was dark. I took a bunch of pictures from the shoreline on both sides, and a few on the ferry as well. Back on the Kowloon side, I caught the "Symphony of Lights," the nightly light show of the Island-side buildings (although I didn't realize that was what it was until later). Dear lord they put on a show. To say that the Island buildings are "lit up" doesn't begin to do it justice. A dozen or more of the larger buildings have LEDs. Like, thousands and thousands of them, that do shifting co-ordinated colours. And then there are the green lasers, in lock-step across the five widely separated buildings that are so equipped. I shudder to think of the wattage they're burning through to do this on a nightly basis: that's an incredible amount of light they're pumping out. And yeah, it's dazzling. I suspect I'll be down there watching it at least one more time: it's brilliant. The pair of junks cruising around with massive red lights pointed at their sails add even more colour to the boats down in the harbour. It's all a touch on the photogenic side.

On the way back to the hotel I wandered into the place that's labelled "Chungking Mansions." It's HK's most notorious apartment block and remains the cheapest place to stay in HK - with all that implies: see Wikipedia on the subject, where they have their own entry ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chungking_Mansions ).

I just "found" the hotel's 40th floor covered rooftop garden. I knew it was there but hadn't visited until now. At 2030 it was completely abandoned. At 2200, when I came up to write this, I found it occupied by several groups. The first seat I took was down-wind of the clump of cigar smokers. But that was easily remedied: the wind is brisk, and there were more seats on the other side of them. We don't have a completely unobstructed view of the Island, but it's nevertheless a very damn fine view. It's a nice space, I'll be back.

photo: Shot from the Hong Kong Park observation tower

a view over the trees of Hong Kong Park to city buildings, notably the Lippo Centre