Secret Asian Man returned to his roots for a long weekend. It was Chinese New year and Hong Kong seemed like the place to be, so the Mrs. and Miss and I packed up and headed north.
Here is something you don’t hear a lot of 16 year olds say. “Wow. It’s so nice to see infrastructure that works. Look at all these sidewalks and lane markings and street signs and look at all the people following the rules!“
It’s about that time in our stay in our new home when we start seeing all the faults there. Some of the ugliness and illogicality of living in Jakarta is becoming apparent. That’s part of culture shock.
Hong Kong, for four days was not that ugly. But it used to be. When I was there as a child, there were still rickshaws and push carts in the street and the city was choked with diesel exhaust. People lived on boats right in the harbor, chucking their trash overboard. It was gritty and organic place.
40 years on the boat people have moved elsewhere. Maybe into the myriad high rise communities or to other more distant harbors. The streets are largely reserved for mass transit vehicles or taxis. There is far less trash floating in the water.
And still the building continues. New bridges and buildings are going in. A new highway from China is coming. It will be interesting to see what further changes come in the next 2 or 3 decades.
Already there are cheap flights and trains and ferries from China. Many come just to do their shopping. One can spot them by the large rolling suitcases they tote around town
The Apple stores in Hong Kong exceed sales figures for Apple stores around the world. Mostly, they sell to mainland Chinese. I walked into an Apple store just 2 minutes after opening and there was a line out the door for people wanting to get an Iphone 6 four months after its introduction. I’m amazed that they can keep them in stock.
I guess they make them nearby in China, so they’re easy to get. They have Apple stores in China. Shanghai has 3 stores, but still they come into this Special Region. I’m told the average Chinese is worried about getting an authentic product and they think that if they get a product in Hong Kong there is less chance of it being counterfeit. If they take it back home and sell it along with their Hong Kong receipt, they can command a premium when they resell it. This is a weird bit of irony, since China is a leader in copied products.
Read on for a travel tip for when you go to Hong Kong.
One of the highlights we did was going out to Lantau Island to see the second largest Buddha statue.
It is bronze and 34 meters tall. It is run by a local Buddhist monastery. Years ago, you had to take a ferry and then a kidney-bruising bus ride up the mountain to the monastery. In true capitalist fashion, it is now much easier to get to. There is a metro stop nearby and you can hop on a miles long cable car that winds up the mountain and drops you off near the Buddha’s pad. For a fee you can climb the 246 steps and see him up close then stroll back down to the monastery for a sumptuous all-vegetarian feast. There’s a temple for praying. Of course, there are also gift shops and ice cream and movies and all that jazz.
It may not sound inviting, but you should go see it. And if you go, here’s the tip. Spring for the VIP pass. Your gondola will be glass bottomed which is a pretty cool perk, but better yet, you get to skip the hour’s long queue to get up and down the mountain. Seriously, it is worth the money to save your time for other things. An added bonus for us was a trip through and old fishing village and a boat trip near the Pearl River Delta to see some White Dolphins. You can thank me later for the tip.
Here’s another tip.
Don’t go during the Lunar New Year if you want to shop. Many shops and business close down or scale back, so you’ll miss out on some of the energy of the city. That said, if you go a little beforehand you can get some pretty good deals.
Other things to see may include the New Year’s parade and fireworks and the flower market which is like a state fair, only distilled and then condensed as throngs gather to buy symbolic flowers and plants in anticipation of the coming year of the goat or sheep.
The main reason we went was to see family. My sibling and their family agreed to a rendezvous with some Aunts, Uncles and cousins who live in Hong Kong. We’ve been back and forth several times since we were kids. It is always nice to catch up. The meals we share are always a highlight even though there can be language barriers. Someone is always around to say a prayer or translate some family folklore. There is always a photo opportunity.
This is a photo of some tiny daffodils in an arrangement that is prevalent around the city. You see it all over the place on hotel counters and restaurant bars and on family coffee tables. It must be a seasonal thing and I didn’t get an explanation for the symbolism, but I’m sure there is. There is so much symbolism and superstition here.
Now here is an old family photo. The younger kids are my grandfather and great aunt along with their parents, my great-grand parents. Now, I know you’re looking at the dapper jacket and hat that my grandfather is wearing, but take a look at the table and the arrangement of daffodils just like the photo I took last week.
This photo was taken some 100 years ago which means that some lunar new year a century ago my family was gathering for a meal and some stories and photos, and now a century later, we’re still able to carry that tradition forward.
I would like an outfit like that, though. Maybe, next trip.
Happy New Year!