Hong Kong is tucked into several islands and a peninsula on the China mainland. Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula was ceded to the British in the 1860’s during the first Opium War. During the second Opium war, (1897) more land called the New territories was “leased” to Britain for 99 years. In 1997, Britain gave all of it back to People’s Republic of China with the provision the area remain self governing for the next 50 years. Not sure if self governing is the right term, because there is a separate government from PRC but PRC has to approve the top guy. Very complicated. Every Hong Kong person we met denies being a PRC citizen and if possible, has plans to live elsewhere by 2047 or if the situation changes sooner. Hence the “ABC” American Born Chinese, you can substitute Canada, Britain, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Germany….. Wendy my friend from Disney days is a CBC having grown up part time in Vancouver. Her sister lives there now and her mom travels back and forth.
The skyscrapers are very dense but there is still a lot of green because of the steep mountains in Hong Kong island and Kowloon. Much more western since being a British territory. Commerce is the name of the game from banking to shopping, with lots of good food thrown in. Typical apartment is 200–300 sq ft for a family of 4. Upper Middle Class family apartment is 500-600 sq ft for $1.5M. Both parents work therefore many households have Pilipino nannies. Nannies who live with the family in the same small space, 6x24. The nannies get Sunday off to go to church. No Costco here because no space to store bulk items!
Beautiful 70 degree day on Monday for our trip to the typical Hong Kong tourist spots. We are joined on the tour with our friends from Minnesota Patty and Nora. Its Nora’s first tour since Manilla where she had a fall that sent her to the hospital with a badly bruised shoulder. She is still a bit unsteady, so Mel and I lend her an arm to hold on to. Victoria’s Peak contains an observation platform, Cable car tram and a shopping mall on the top of one of the tallest mountain. Lovely view of the skyscrapers and surrounding islands. The funicular tram ride down was fun too, peering down the streets and allys as we went backwards down the mountain. Stanley Market is the expat area and a permanent flea market (swap meet) shops with many consumer goods. We added to the economy with purchasing 6 scarfs for $100 HKD ($13 USD). Patty and Nora made their own contribution in scarfs. We also added to the economy at the jewelry store featuring jade and pearls. Mel and I resisted as much as we could before succumbing to a bracelet.
Aberdeen Harbor looked nothing like it did seven years ago when I was there. Today, the harbor is filled with luxury yacht all the way out to Jumbo, a floating seafood restaurant. I remember an open water boat ride out to the restaurant. Our sampan threaded its way through lanes and lanes of moored boats. A few of them still being used as house boats. We even passed a roach couch (food truck) boat, going around with fresh hot food for sale.
That evening we joined a friend and former Disney co-worker, Wendy for dinner. Wendy and I first met in Japan working on the Disney Tomorrowland international project. We have worked on various other projects since over the years. In the small world category, Wendy quit Disney two years ago and now works for Striker, a medical supply company headquartered in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She goes there a couple of times a year. Dinner was at a Michelin Star restaurant for Peking duck. It was to die for! Melted in your mouth with an explosion of flavors between the duck, crispy skin and rice pancake. Great choice Wendy. Biggest adventure was getting Wendy’s car in and out of the parking elevator. To save space, the parking garages have elevators instead of ramps. The parking elevator was so narrow, Mel made sure the car was lined up straight, before Wendy drove in. Green light told you to stop just like in a drive-through car wash. Push the button for the ground floor and away you go.
Hong Kong day two was 3 stops on the Kowloon peninsula. First stop was Wong Tia Sin Taoist Temple, still decorated in red for Lunar New Year. I was able to light some incense and say some prayers for health and safe travels. Several people were praying, making a wish and shaking a bamboo cylinder until a stick falls out. The stick is exchanged for a paper being the same number, to be interpreted by a soothsayer.
Next stop was a city garden park. Lovely winding paths, stone works and trees. Many people were out doing their daily Tia Chi exercises, some to music, some to their own rhythm. One group did their Tia Chi dance with big, bright swords and red tassels that flashed in the sunlight through the trees. The site was an ancient walled city that escaped redevelopment until 1980 when it had become so lawless, the government decided to knock it down and relocate people elsewhere. Now it’s a serene reserve from the city.
Last stop was the best, Chi Lin Buddhist Nunnery and gardens dating from 1930’s. Its divided into two areas. The first is a large acre-sized garden with many ponds, trees, flowers and pavilions to stroll around leisurely. The second is the nunnery area which is a large courtyard, surrounded by pavilions. The courtyard contained several ponds, landscaped with bonsai trees from around the world. The pavilions had Alters to Buddha and several Bodhisattva (saints). Peace and serenity enveloped Mel and I as we walked slowly around. The buildings were all made of wood, constructed without a nail, using ancient joining techniques. The lily ponds were crystal clear and reminded me of the ones I think of when I meditate.
We were told not to talk loudly and pointing is very rude. Of course in true Hong Kong style, the Nunnery and gardens are next to the four story Hollywood Park Mall. It’s the yin and the yang of the world.
Great time in Hong Kong – weather, food, friends, gardens, shopping…. What more could you want.