Saturday, February 04, 2006

Just Sit Right Back And You'll Hear A Tale

Just back from our guided Hong Kong city tour, which--surprise, surprise!--turned out to be wholly enjoyable. We started the morning early with the breakfast buffet in the hotel, a massive spread that reminded me of hotel brunches at home, complete with the man making made-to-order omelettes and waffles. We chatted a bit with some of the other CCAI couples, though we have met more members of 905 and 908 (whither 907?) than our group, 906. Some of the families have small children with them, who for the most part seem to be having a grand ol' time making friends with each other. It's been fun putting faces with the names from a year of Yahoo! group postings.

At precisely 9:00, our guides began shepherding us onto the motor coaches, and our guide, Alex, was a pip. In the first few moments, he had informed us we had "the second best driver in Hong Kong...the first is still in the hospital." Clearly, he was hired by CCAI by way of the Catskills. He'll be here all week, folks. Be sure to tip your waitresses. Alex and his microphone kept us entertained for the next five hours and he never lost his balance, standing as the bus whipped around corners going up and down many hills. We learned all about the "sport" of horse racing in Hong Kong, and exactly how much (in both Hong Kong and U.S. dollars) each of the houses on Victoria Peak cost. We found out that government housing apartments measure less than 300 square feet. Deadpanned Alex: "If I can't find the remote, I use my right big toe. If my TV isn't working, I yell at my neighbor to turn his up." But seriously, folks. Take his wife, please.

Our first stop was the aforementioned Victoria Peak, today so shrouded in fog that the ground was soaking wet, so no regrets for making our own expedition yesterday in the clear, warm sun. We were there only briefly, to peer through the haze at the tips of buildings Alex described for us, and his knowledge of Hong Kong's architectural history was impressive.

Heading back down the hill, we drove to the fishing village of Aberdeen, once but a "quaint" harbor with a community of fishermen living on their boats, but now jarringly surrounded by high rises. We also saw the famed floating restaurant of Aberdeen, called "The Jumbo," which can seat 1,000 diners, apparently ones who don't mind rocking as they eat. Exiting the bus, we were one by one lifted gently onto wooden sampans, covered boats with old tire bumpers that seat about 12 people, and rowed around the harbor by a gnarled and silent gentleman. We waved to other boats from which dogs watched us curiously, and our captain even pointed out the boat where he lives. We had a nice moment during the short cruise where all the couples on our boat, strangers only moments before, almost simultaneously whipped out photos of our respective babies, scattered in different provinces around the country. There's a bonding moment if I ever saw one.

Next we went to a wholesale jewelry market, which we entered through an alley, and had a curious "tour" of the jewelry-making area that I kept sensing was staged. Various men who assiduously ignored us were engaged in staring intently at pieces of jewelry that looked like they'd been finished a long time ago while our tour guide explained how pieces were polished and how one guy, who was apparently setting stones, would be replaced after age 50 because his eyesight would go. It hardly seemed sporting to say so right in front of him. Suddenly, a door was thrown open into a cavernous room entirely filled with gleaming glass cases and smiling, suit-wearing salespeople all standing at attention behind them. Within seconds we were descended upon by smooth-talking slicksters who wondered if we might be desirous of a special piece to commemorate our adoptions or perhaps a "lucky" or "prosperous" piece of jade to give her when she gets older. I usually get nervous in these situations, but I went with the moment and soon was merrily waggling bejeweled rings on every finger and asking David which ones he intended to buy me. ;) In the end, we settled on a small blue pendant to give to Jarrah to commemorate this trip.

Back on the bus, and off to our last and favorite stop, the Stanley Market, a sort of permanent street fair tucked into a nook of a waterfront neighborhood. The layout wasn't too daunting, and the stalls were arranged in a cozy, overlapping style so you had the sense of exploring little alleys and secret corners for bargains. There were all kinds of wonderful silk items with Chinese prints, including the tiny red cheongsam I bought for Ruo-Ruo, and matching shoes! Mary and I had a blast poking and prodding all the tantalizing items, and David and Paul wandered off at their own pace. I was a little sad we only had an hour there.

A Chinese lunch capped the festivities, following an amusing moment on the bus when Alex needed to "out" the vegetarians and segregate them at their own table. Since I don't eat pork or seafood, this included me, and Paul and David agreeably suppressed their carnivorous ways for the occasion. We were told we were having dim sum, but it was more like a family-style meal on a Lazy Susan, and we met a few other travelers (peace-loving veg eaters, natch) and a couple of their adorable daughters (turning up their noses at anything but noodles) while we dined.

David and I grabbed a quick nap just now and for once are feeling perky enough to venture out for the evening. We plan to join Mary and Paul for a walk to the Temple Street Night Market, the delights of which I will detail in another post.

Next Entry


Anonymous said...

What a great day! (And it sounds like Alex has a future as a tummler!) We've been reading your updates every day and feel like we're along for the ride.

Anonymous said...

He he he, love the Catskills reference! :)
I feel like we're there with you!