Hong Kong, PRC – Day two
From the Ships Navigator
The weather forecast for today calls for an outside temperature of 73 degrees and a strong breeze blowing from northeast with force of 6. From my early morning observation, a strong breeze that would clear away the haze that seemed to build overnight would be welcome.
One of the most prevalent superstitions in Hong Kong is the belief in the power in numbers. In the Cantonese language, many words share the same pronunciation as numbers. The number three sounds similar to “life”, nine sounds like “eternity”, and the number eight like “prosperity”. Lowest on the list is the number four, which has the same pronunciation as the word for “death”. Companies or homebuyers will pay extra money for an address that contains one or more number eights. Each year the Hong Kong government draws in millions of dollars for charity by auctioning off automobile license plates, which feature lucky numbers. The Bank of China Tower opened on 08/08/88 – a rare union of the numbers signifying prosperity. Couples rush to be married if there is an eight in the date, so August is a busy month! Some foods are also luckier than others. On birthdays, celebrants may eat noodles, as the long strands symbolize longevity. Sea moss, which in Cantonese has the same sound as “prosperity, is always an auspicious ingredient.
Visiting the vibrant, bustling city of Kowloon requires no more than walking through the Ocean Terminal located in the Harbor City building and exiting out onto Canton Road, carefully. One thing you learn about being a pedestrian in China is you only have the “right of Way’ in a traffic light controlled crosswalk, and then you better have your “head on a swivel”!
We had four objectives in mind this day; shopping the vaunted Jade Market, getting me a haircut, replacing my everyday watch that was “loosing its mind” and shopping for a USB drive for my computer. Since this would require a lot of walking, we decided to go slow and just enjoy city life. Our first “rest stop” was in Kowloon Park, a large green space in the center of this busy city, which contains a wild bird park, water park and aviary. As I rested while Barbara went on a photo shoot, we both observed the local residents engaged in various stages of exercise, mostly “tai Chi”. Near the aviary was a shallow pond filled with huge Koi Fish, ducks, swans, geese, a large flock of Flamingos and a single Peacock preening in a tree. Walking further into the park we could hear laughter and singing. What we found in the “Chinese Garden” was about ten local women accompanied by a gentleman playing a version of the flute. Since some were using sheet music, so we assumed we had happened upon a rehearsal. Part of their “performance” included gentle dancing, hand movements, and a lot of smiling and laughter. The group did not seem concerned that I video taped one performance. Exiting from the park brought us by one of several McDonalds we had seen in the city. I had my first made-while-you-wait, hot off the griddle BigMac.
As we walked toward the Jade Market we passed by a couple of “Barber Poles” and discovered that these marked the upstairs locations of salons whose cliental were both men and women. The price seemed reasonable so we checked that item off our list for $9.50 US.
The Jade Market is in a covered building where authorized vendors set up their stalls in an orderly fashion, and attempt to “hook” customers as they browse for Jade (expensive and fake) jewelry and carvings, pearls, and loose pieces of Jade, etc. Barbara was in shopper’s heaven, I found a comfortable place to sit, and sit, and sit.
We decided to walk along Nathan Road (main city thoroughfare) pausing to check the prices in the jewelry district stores. I found a nice Casio watch (made in Japan), and was able negotiate the clerk down to a more reasonable price. I forgot to mention earlier that almost everyone in Hong Kong speaks some English.
Continuing down Nathan Road, on sidewalks engulfed with pedestrians, and city buses whizzing perilously close by, we found the area we were looking for that would have a good price on computer peripherals, and hopefully a great deal on USB drives. We did find two shops, but there were no “deals” and no one was anxious to “deal”, so we decided to head back to an area closer to the ship and the specialty shops. On the way to a bus stop on Nathan Road, we crossed an alley size street that was about two or three blocks long marked on our map as “Ladies Market”. Had Barbara not already disposed of most of our HK $, I would have lost her. I was so proud when she stated “I’m not even going to look”.
Most Kowloon city busses are also double decker; however the one we boarded had few seats, mainly poles and hand straps to hang onto, we did not venture to the second deck. We tossed some HK coins in the hopper and squeezed our way to a standing spot, just as Mario’s other brother put the hammer to the floor. This is standard starting procedure even though the bus may be only traveling to the next stoplight!! Likewise, stopping is the reverse of starting, with the brakes squealing in protest, accompanied by the groaning of terrified tourists. During the many stops along the way, we noticed that most new riders simply held their wallet or purses up to a “fast pass” scanner to pay the fare. The Japanese and Chinese seem to have a greater love affair with the latest technology, some of which is still not widely available in North America. We could find no merchants wanting to deal on a USB drive, one even told me when I offered 50 HK$ less than his asking price responded, “Sure – next year!” Unsuccessful , we returned to the ship.
After our evening meal in the ship’s main dining room, we decided to go back ashore and take a stroll along the waterfront promenade. There were hundreds of families, friends and tourists gathering for what is billed as the “World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show” by Guinness World Records. It includes 44 buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbour and runs for about 13 minutes nightly at 8:00PM. We had watched part of this show from the aft deck of the ship the night before but were not impressed, as we were unable to hear the “sound” part. As we joined the gathered throng and waited for the beginning of the show, we were entertained by the many and varied watercraft still plying the harbor waters. Promptly at 8 PM an announcement, in several languages, was broadcast from speakers built into the promenade concrete walls, preparing everyone for the start of the show. I would be hard pressed to describe what we saw and heard for the next few minutes. Each building in the show had lights that would blink on and off in synchronization with the fast paced digital music, flood lights, and animated marquee lights flashed on and off as laser lights of every color pierced the night sky. In my mind I kept comparing it to “low wattage”, Disneyland’s Main Street Electric Light Parade and Fireworks show wrapped up in an Oriental Electronic package. It was a fitting conclusion to two wonderful days at one of the world’s most beautiful harbors.
Can you tell we loved Hong Kong?
From the steamy South China Sea, we send our regards,
Jack and Barbara