In the end, Typhoon Dujuan turned out to be a non-event. Sure, there was some rain, and some wind, but from my vantage point the most exciting occurrence was the placement of a number of stranded passengers at my hotel, as flights in and out of Hong Kong were cancelled. On the other hand, a hearty group of revelers that I read about in the South China Morning Post had a great time down at the harbor watching the winds kick up and the waves come crashing against the docks. In retrospect, I should have headed down there to, but since I wasn’t all that sure what to expect, and knowing no one in Hong Kong should I have encountered some serious trouble, I wasn’t up to taking the chance. Besides, to be honest, I was tired, and it made for a great excuse to get some shut eye.
Wednesday dawned cloudy but cleared up by the time I made it out and about. I took off for Stanley, on the opposite site of Hong Kong Island from the city itself, via the No 6 bus that headed over the island. This was quite a pleasant if swooning ride, with beautiful views both of the city on the way up and the various bays and inlets on the way down. At more than one point I was tempted to disembark just to take some photos, but I surpressed the urge in the hopes of having fun in Stanley.
The town around the market areas was relatively quiet and relaxing, with a nice bay walk. I also spent some time Wandering leisurely through the inexpensive merchandise (where I picked up two new ‘paintings’), tooks dozens of photos, and ate lunch at Wildfire on the third floor of the Murray House. The Murray House itself has a fascinating history, as it was the oldest colonial building in Hong Kong city, and was disassembled in 1982 to make way for the Bank of China. It was then rebuilt in the 1990s, after being discovered in storage, in Stanley, where it now houses several restuarants. Oddly enough, the restuarant I ate at spoke far more English than Cantonese.
The third floor breeze was fantastic, and I lingered until mid-afternoon. I left shortly after leaving the restaurant, wanting to ensure I returned to the city in time to stop by my hotel to drop off my backpack prior to the Cantonese Opera at 7:30. The Opera itself turned out to be one of the most fascinating cultural events I’ve been to, on par with the Cherry Blossom display I saw in Kyoto at Gion Corner. It also contained far more acrobatics than I expected as well as music that was primarily a cacophony of clanging noises. To my surprise, it also contained a for of electronic subtitles, enabling those of us speaking English to follow along, for the most part. When the scenes picked up speed, particularly at the end of the second story, the subtitles were sadly lacking. Still I was completely drawn in to the story by that point and enjoyed every moment.
Thursday I decided to head to Macau, once a colony of Portugal. The province is about an hour away from Hong Kong, with vessels sailing every half hour during the day. The trip itself was quiet and uneventful, and the seats on the ship I took were extremely comfortable. I was told by two Aussies on the return that their ship over was not nearly as smooth or comfortable a ride.
Leaving the ferry terminal in Macau, I was dumped in front of an area with several men around to accost me for cheap transportation and “tours” around the city. After putting off several of them I was able to find the bus terminal and catch a bus that headed near the Casino Lisboa. Unfortunately, this wasn’t as wonderful as it sounds, since the bus didn’t clearly announce the stops and had a tendancy to skip some. I was actually quiet nervous, having never been to the city and having no idea where in the world I was. I finally got off, after what seemed like awhile, at a stop in the middle of nowhere in a place that, as it turns out, was only about a block and a half away from my intended destination. This, of course, I realized only after I got on another bus and watched it drive the block and a half or so.
From there I was able to get my bearings and head toward the Monte Fort, the fort at the top of one of the tallest points in the city. Along the way I encountered a lovely pedestrian area with buildings still built in the original architectural style from when the Portugeuse first settled in the area. The area was now filled with shops and other modern amenities as well as plenty of pedestrian traffic. I finally came to an intersection in the road, where I decided to head up toward the for. Granted, the other way would have led to the ruins of the Church of St. Paul, a front facade to what at one time must have been an impressive structure. It was originally built by the Jesuits, though they lost control when expelled. It was later used as a military installation, until it burned down in 1835. Off to the side are the climate-controlled escalators leading to the top of the fort as well as the Macau museum.
Me being me, I didn’t find this out until after I was leaving. Instead, I took the long walk up the other face throught he noonday heat and humidity to the top of the fort. This was a long walk through some back alleys and did provide an excellent sense of the more typical housing areas that are “off the beaten path” so to speak. The fort itself provided some impressive views of the surrounding area, and the museum provided an excellent background to Macau’s history.
I returned to Hong Kong for the early evening and ended up later at the Night Market on Temple Street. Bustling with activity, dozens of tourists and locals interact in a night market each day from about 6 pm until late at night, with clothes, CDs, movies, and many, many trinkets and jewlrey items all for sale at “bargain” prices. Literally, you have to bargain to get the best price, which was a concept that was relatively new for me. Sure, I’ve been to flea markets and other markets in Asia, but I’ve generally not bought anything there, so going back and forth with a calculator was definitely a whole new experience. I did pick up a few things here, including a nice bead bracelet for my sister that she very much appreciated.
Friday I took off for the new territories, particularly Sha Tin. Sha Tin boasts an incredible shopping space, all accessible immediately adjacent to the train station without actually going outdoors. The space is huge, with passageways connecting to additional buildings filled with…more shopping. Walking back through here when I was heading to the 10,000 Buddhas Monestary was simply unbelievable. It was essentially a mall to rival any mall I’ve been to.
Outside, behind the town hall building, is the Marriage Registry, which opens to the park area next to the river. Here I paused for awhile, in part to take advantage of the photogenic nature of the park and also to allow my camera to de-fog. While I waited several brides and grooms, with their associated parties, left the registry and, in a celebratory mode, took photographics with their friends and family. It was wholly worth the half hour to hour I spent watching the five to ten groups that passed through. There were also a number of groups out, practicing breathing and martial arts exercises, including one large group doing sword forms in the covered pavillion.
Eventually, not wanting to spend my entire last day here, I did head off to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. If you visit only one museum in Hong Kong (and I did visit only one), this is the one. It boasts an impressive set of galleries with several changing exhibits. The one that caught my eye was the “More Than Just Food – Ceramic Art Exhibition”. I was very amused by one display, of a giant chicken-theme setting for National Day. On the menu, Shredded Chicken in State Secret Sauce. I suppose you had to be there.
Before leaving Sha Tin (the second time), I did climb the many hundreds of stairs to the top of the 10 Thousand Buddhas Monestary. The monestary is the home of over 12,000 Buddha statutes, built on a hill overlooking the city. Despite the climb, the monestary was quite busy, with another tourist and even a family making it to the top.
Before heading back to Kowloon, to take care of packing, eating, and just hanging out for my last night, I took the KCR train up to Lo Wu, the town that shares a border with Shenzhen. Before you even leave the train station, you’re confronted with ominous signs stating that this is a closed area and that only valid people may enter. This was my motivation to catch the next train back to Kowloon, despite the fact that, if I had wanted to, I could have picked up a valid visa and actually entered Shenzhen. It being early evening, though, I decided to head back.
All in all, the trip was fascinating, and I had a wonderful time. I would be quite thrilled to visit Hong Kong again, and very much look forward to another trip there in the future. In fact, of the three major Asian cities I’ve visited (Tokyo, Singapore, and Hong Kong), I prefer Hong Kong the most. Granted, I did have some food trouble, but that’s simply the way it goes on these trips. I can only imagine what my next adventure will bring.