We started the day by taking the train from the New Territories, where Grace lives, to Kowloon, the area directly south. First we went to the flower market which is an entire city block lined with flower shops all the way around. You could smell the aroma of fresh flowers and plants before you could even see the market. Each little shop was overflowing with colorful blooms -- literally every flower you could imagine. We bought some pale pink peonies (Kristin's favorite flower) to take home for Grace, then we were off to the jade market.
We got there just as the vendors were setting up their carts in a large, open warehouse. This was fortunate because it was already proving to be a scorchingly hot and humid day and we had managed to beat most of the crowds that would soon fill the small market. We wandered around the rows of shiny jade necklaces, bracelets, and figurines while each vendor tried to convince us that their goods were the best. Since we are no experts on jade and really couldn't distinguish between the quality of the different pieces, we bought a few small souvenirs for friends and family. The vendors were probably pretty glad to see us because we didn't try to haggle too much -- we figured that they could probably use an extra fifty cents more than we could. Most of them told us that they would give us a good deal because the first sale of the day was good luck.
From the jade market, we travelled south to the harbor to visit the Hong Kong Museum of Art. The four story building is home to several collections of chinese art and overlooks Victoria harbor providing an amazing view of the Hong Kong skyline. We really enjoyed the calligraphy exhibit and the fine art wing of the museum. It's amazing to see how well the ancient scrolls have been preserved over thousands of years. We found it really interesting that the museum provided so much information about the artists' lives as opposed to the art itself. Most exhibits provided a general background on the time period or the genre of art but then went into extensive description of the artists' lives and education, even comparing two artists' lives in detailed timelines accopanied by photographs. We really enjoyed all of the beautiful paintings and drawings of things from nature which was the dominant theme throughout most of the collections. There was also a fascinating exhibit of the work of a modern artist who during the Cultural Revolution, chose to destroy his own work rather than let it be destroyed by the government. We could only imagine how difficult that must have been.
We took some photos of the skyline of Hong Kong from the observation deck of the museum before crossing the street to enjoy high tea at the Peninsula Hotel. The hotel is VERY luxurious. It even has it's own fleet of rolls royces and a helicopter to take guests to and from the airport! It was built during the roaring '20's and is still considered one of the finest hotels in the world. We were seated at a table in the middle of an enormous lobby with vaulted ceilings and a grand marble staircase. There was a wide variety of English and Chinese teas to choose from -- I (Kristin) had the Peninsula Afternoon tea and Will had good old fashioned Earl Grey. The incredibly attentive waitstaff (who seemed to be everywhere at once) brought us a three-tiered tray of scones with clotted cream and jam, crustless sandwiches, and assorted pastries and desserts. We sat there drinking our tea and talking for so long that by the time we were both on our second pot of tea, I think the staff was wondering if we were ever going to leave! It was just so relaxing and the people-watching was fun too. Grace joined us at the hotel after she finished teaching for the day.
Inspired by our personal tea party (and a little wired from all the caffeine) we decided to go shopping for tea pots at the Chinese Emporium. We explored mutliple levels of Chinese goods before settling on the perfect tea pot to take back to Boston and some ceramic chopsticks. We had planned to take a harbor cruise but just our luck, it started to rain while we were shopping. Instead we walked to the neighborhood where Grace volunteers and passed some time in a cool bookstore until catching a bus to meet Psalm and Suhail (Grace's roommate and her boyfriend) for dinner.
"Dinner" actually consisted of gorging ourselves with sugar at a dessert buffet at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Hong Kong Island. Who knew such a thing even existed! Genius. We sampled everything from pie, cake, ice cream, and pudding to souffles, tiramisu, dessert waffles and even a chocolate fountain. It was all incredible. Not surprisingly, we soon came down from our sugar high and pretty much fell asleep on the bus ride home. What a day!