Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Return to Hong Kong

Map picture

Return To Hong Kong – Day 2

For our second stop at Hong Kong, we again had a private car and guide for a 4 hour tour. Our guide, Patrick, was the same guide that we had on our first stop, and he was once again wonderful.

It was a chilly and overcast morning, and departing the ship at 8:30am put us out on the streets before anything was really open. Most shops do not open until 10:30 to 11am, but they stay open late in the evening. Patrick, however, could not wait to show us “the Bird Market,” which is much more than a “market.” I think I mentioned earlier that the average size of an apartment in Hong Kong is only 400 sq. ft. This means that any pets kept in the household must of necessity be small, and hence, the attraction of keeping a bird as a pet. In particular, local men, who are retired, are attracted to this hobby. Patrick said that this was the favorite hobby of his father, and his father before him, and that in a few years when his son completed university, he, too, would retire and keep a pet bird. Why, you might ask, is this so popular among retired men? Well, it seems that every day the old men bring their birds to this park so that they can enjoy sunshine and the company of other birds nearby. While the birds go about “speaking” to each other in a melodious chorus, so too do the old men “speak” among themselves. It is a social event, akin to the morning coffee that we have in our country. The birds are beautiful and are pampered excessively. The men carry them about in elaborate teak cages which are carefully wrapped against the weather. Once arriving at the park, they very carefully remove the cloth from around the cage, positioning it so that it hangs adjacent to another cage so that “conversation” can take place.


Then the men stand around smoking and talking while the birds do their talking too.

A short distance away was the flower market, a truly fragrant and pleasing sight. Here flowers from all over the world are delivered fresh each day. Since Hong Kong has no land on which to grow flowers, everything has to be imported. Logically you would think that most of the flowers are grown on the mainland and trucked into Hong Kong, but in truth, most of the flowers are flown overnight from all over Asia.


I saw huge truckloads of flower boxes all containing air freight labels. The sheer number of different and beautiful flowers was overwhelming. Since the Chinese New Year is approaching, the shops were especially full and brimming with inventory. All in all, this was an enjoyable walk.

Our next stop was a drive to the Hollywood Road area which is famous as the location of a wide array of antiques and curio shops. Most of these were still closed, but also located in that area was the Man Mo Temple. This is Hong Kong’s oldest and most famous temple.


It is named after the God of War and the God of Literature. Even though the Temple was quite small and ordinary, it is one of the wealthiest in all of China. People donate freely as they seek favors from the Gods, and in so doing allow the Temple to engage in a wide range of charitable endeavors.

Finally we drove quite a ways to reach Stanley Market. Originally this area flourished because when large clothing chains placed orders for goods, e.g. Polo, iZod, etc. the manufactures always did an overrun just to insure that if any of the products were defective they had the stock to insure delivery of the entire order. Once the order was filled, this “Overstock” was put up for sale in the local stalls around Stanley Market. Since these items were sized for the US market, the area quickly became an attraction for tourists seeking brand name goods at bargain prices. Today Stanley Market has grown up far beyond its humble beginnings and is now a beautiful beachfront village complete with its own shopping center and square.


Along the boardwalk are numerous cafés and bars offering beautiful vistas while you enjoy some good food, a beer, and engage in people watching.

Our visit came to an end too soon. We were back onboard our ship, but remember we had to attend a “special immigration interview,” because of our trip to Macau. When the appointed time arrived, Lisa and I presented ourselves to one of the upstairs special dining rooms where this process was taking place. When we stepped into the room I thought we had entered a war counsel. The room was filled with immigration officials and an entire wall of computers. Arrayed around the room were the passports of all the passengers, which were clearly being examined in great detail. Many had been put aside on a special table and were color tagged for some reason. The entire atmosphere was to say the least “tense.” Separated from the other passports was a box that appeared to contain the passports of everyone who had gone to Macau. We announced why we were there and were told to wait please for an agent. A very stern gentleman arrives and picks up our passports and proceeds to examine them in great detail, looking at all our stamps and verifying our faces. For the life of me I felt as if I was in some espionage movie and being interrogated. After what seemed forever, we were told in a stern tone that we could go, and believe me we both scurried out as fast as our little feet would go.

Our ship sailed from Hong Kong harbor right at sunset, and because of the location of our room at the back of the ship, we had an absolutely stunning vista.


I grabbed my camera and in short order had taken some really good pictures. Fat dumb and happy, I am sitting on my deck snapping away gleefully, when I happen to look down at the screen on my camera and plastered across the top of my last picture were the words “Demo.” I had no clue as to what that meant, but I knew it could not be good news. It took me several minutes to discover that I had already removed my memory card for processing and that it was sitting in my cabin. That meant of course that all those “once in a lifetime” pictures were never recorded. I guess if I had a dollar for every great picture I have missed, I would be a millionaire many times over, but it was kind of sad.

Today we are at sea on our way to the island of Taiwan. This evening we will transit the Formosa Strait, and arrive at the port city of Keelung tomorrow morning. After tomorrow, we have only one more stop before our cruise ends in Shanghai. It seems hard to believe that a month as gone by already.

I hope everyone is well.


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