Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Dreamy Day in Hong Kong

I'm feeling more myself again after nearly 10 hours of sleep in our incredibly comfortable white down bed of the Royal Garden Hotel, Kowloon. Yesterday we walked for hours, and though I sometimes felt like I was watching the proceedings from a great distance through a curtain of gauze, I won't soon forget the experiences we had. First off, we discovered where all the people are! We ended up in areas with lots of locals, and even the tourists we saw seemed to be from the mainland. After a bustling lunch in a French cafe, we headed for the waterfront promenade of Tsim Sha Tsui (pronounced "Jim Saw Joy") and were rewarded with a sweeping panorama of Hong Kong Island and the harbor as we strolled past Hong Kong's version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame (stars and handprints for Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan) and a few amusing English signs like "Beware of Lamppost" and "Care the Lovely Flowers." Our favorite was "Please Wrap Spittle" on the side of a trash bin. There was a celebratory mood; it is still Chinese New Year time, and there are red lanterns and decorations everywhere. Mary and I ducked into a shop selling refrigerated bird's nest in a jar--something to do with longevity. Eventually we made our way to the Star Ferries, a fleet of green and white boats that chug between Kowloon and the Island in about seven minutes of delightful views from the wooden benches which line the top deck. When we reached the other side and landed in the Central District, we were briefly engulfed in the urban crush of the workday, and roaring boulevards that we eventually learned are usually crossed with pedestrian bridges or underground subways. Towering banks and stately war monuments gave way, with a little walking and persistence, to fascinating narrow streets, many seeming to stretch uphill at a 45 degree angle, and hundreds of shops with names in both Chinese and English. Their signs gave us the first glimpse into our fantasies of Hong Kong, as they reach across the roads at varying heights, creating a geometric mobile of color (and later, light) to delight the eye. Pressing uphill, the neighborhoods revealed fewer and fewer tourist indications (like 7-11s and Starbucks) and more lovely bakeries, cafes, bars and shops selling incense or birds or dried squid in jars. I can't really explain the enchanting aspect to this walk, but all four of us were feeling it. We even tip-toed through an iron gate that led to a peeling whitewashed mosque, the steps of which were covered with children's shoes whose owners could be heard chanting and singing inside. At one point we reached the neighborhood called "Soho" (south of Hollywood St.) and discovered the fabulous "Midlands Escalators," 29 separate moving staircases that continue towards the top of Victoria Peak, offering tantalizing glimpses of the various shops and restaurants on each level as you slowly ascend (you can exit anywhere you like.) The escalator was designed for commuters, so it heads down from 6-10 a.m. each day, and then goes up until midnight. On the way back down, we wended our way slowly on steep, curving streets and landed in the Western part of Central, where the smell of fresh, flopping fish and bloody hanging cuts of meat and the stands bursting with fruits and flowers crowd the steep, narrow alleys and hundreds of people shop for the freshest of dinner ingredients. It's funny that this whole adventure serendipitously unfolded because I had been searching for a 1930s-style Chinese department store called Shanghai Tang, because when we did find it on our way back to the ferry it was slick in a way unlike anything we had had the privilege to experience in our rambling walk.

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10 comments:

Anonymous said...

The photos add a great dimension to the blog! Good to see you looking so happy!
The city looks very colorful & interesting.
Best, Gail

Anonymous said...

i'm so very happy that everything is going well. the pics make me sorry we didn't get to hk! -jalan

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful place! I am amazed at how calm you seem and am so happy that you are able to take in the culture and scenes of Jarrah's birth country. What wonderful stories and pictures you will have to share with her in the future! Such a lucky little girl... -Kim

Anonymous said...

Hi Sam & David -

Great photos and great stories. Glad to hear your trip over went smoothly. We'll be thinking of you on Sunday at 4:00 CA time!! Looking forward to updates. Enjoy...

Love, Lynda, Mark & Jillian

Steph said...

Since I met you and David and Mary and Paul thru Resolve over a year ago; I often thought several would make the trip to China to complete their families. Now that time has come and there you are! I've popped over here several times to see how things are going since I learned about your blog a few weeks ago. I've been brought to tears more than once reading it (and Mary's too), I just can not tell you how happy I am for all of you. All of that emotion reminds me to visit often, my own gratitude, for my own little family. Nathan was born last year on the Chinese New Year.
~Stephanie

Lisa Gillespie said...

Beautiful photography and writing! This Blog will be such a treasure for Jarrah when she is older. Glad things are going well. We are thinking of you!--Lisa G.

Anonymous said...

SAm your pictures are so great keep them coming!!! It is so great to see you taking full advantage of this once in a lifetime experience!
:)
Amy

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to see you enjoying yourselves so much, and I love the pix!

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Love,
Miss J

Journey to Mia Lin said...

Watching your journey! Can't wait to see pics of your little one with you!!!!

Anonymous said...

I love the photos and stories of HK! Can't wait to see and read more!!!
Laura