Hong Kong Day 1
The weather in Hong Kong is perfect – 24 C and sunny! We have been to Hong Kong several times and so we just wanted to chill out, go to the Ladies Market and the Temple Street Night Market, eat some food and enjoy the vibrant street scene. We took the complimentary shuttle to one of the metro stations (Holland America does a great job of arranging shuttles wherever possible) which was under quite a large mall. Unfortunately, the mall wasn’t open yet but one the passengers we had met before recommended visiting the Nan Lian Garden, just across the street. Never heard of them but what the heck. What an amazing find for us!
Established in 1934, the Chi Lin Nunnery is part of the garden complex and is literally in the middle of the concrete jungle of Hong Kong. As you can see from the pictures below, it is absolutely stunning!
From the gardens, we caught the metro to Tsim Sha Tsui, quick and easy with only one transfer. Our goal was to walk up Nathan road to the market, stopping at shops and sights along the way.
Nathan Road is named after Hong Kong’s only Jewish governor, Matthew Nathan, Kowloon’s main drag is a bit of a traffic- and pedestrian-choked crowd of malls, jewellery stores, and fashion boutiques. It’s nonetheless an iconic Hong Kong scene where guesthouses rub shoulders with luxury hotels.
So, we walked and walked until hunger got the best of us and we stopped for Dim Sum at a great little restaurant. We were pretty sure that the food was good even though it was directly on Nathan Road, as it was crowded with Chinese and we were the only obvious tourists there. As it turned out, the food was delicious. Dumpling soup filled with pork and vegetables, fried scallion pancakes and crab filled dumplings.
We finally made it to the Ladies Market! Chock a block full of clothing, trinkets, electronics, bags, scarves and the like, it attracts huge crowds looking for and getting bargains. You have to be very careful about the quality, but it is a great place to soak up the local atmosphere. It is quite large and runs for several blocks. Did I mention it attracts huge crowds down a narrow walkway where you squeeze through and get jostled all the way?
After our fill of bargain hunting, we walked back to the Temple Street Night Market. When night falls and neon buzzes, Hong Kong’s liveliest market rattles into life. It covers multiple city blocks. In the 1920s, vendors gathered there to serve temple-goers; a century on, the crowds descend nightly for cheap clothes and watches, street food, trinkets and tea ware. Marked prices are mere suggestions – this is a place to bargain.
Tourist trap? Absolutely, but that didn’t stop us. It remains Hong Kong’s most thrillingly underdeveloped district, where, if you veer away from the bare-bulb stalls you might encounter Canton singing houses, fortune tellers, herbalists, street eats, sex shops and prostitutes lurking in the shadows.
They say the market is at its bustling best from 7pm to 10pm.
Back to the ship in time for the nightly show which was a series of Chinese performed by a local cultural dance group. Hard to get good pictures.
Hong Kong Day 2
The shuttle today was able to drop us off very close to the Star Ferry Terminal. You can’t say you’ve ‘done’ Hong Kong until you’ve taken a ride on a Star Ferry, with its’ fleet of electric-diesel vessels with names like Morning Star, Celestial Star and Twinkling Star.
At any time of the day, the journey, with its riveting views of skyscrapers and jungle-clad hills, must be one of the world’s best-value cruises. At the end of the 10-minute journey, a hemp rope is cast from the back of the boat and caught with a billhook, the way it was in 1888 when the first boat docked.
The cheapest fares are only available on the lower deck, but the views are a little better and there are less fumes on the top deck. You get tickets at the pier through an easy to use self-serve terminal.
The only hopeful destination today was the Man Mo Temple but we just wanted to wander around the SOHO (South of Hollywood Road) area of Central district on Hong Kong Island. It is an entertainment/shopping/restaurant area that has a very vibrant feel to it. We had no agenda in walking around, except to find a decent place for lunch which we accomplished at a fusion Chinese restaurant called Chifa Dumpling House. Nothing too exotic today…a pork stir fry, crab filled wontons and New York style Cheesecake for dessert! It was delicious!
Perhaps you are noticing a trend in our travels…food and wine. They go together like a kiss and a hug!
One of Hong Kong’s oldest temples and a declared monument, atmospheric Man Mo Temple is dedicated to the gods of literature (‘Man’), holding a writing brush, and of war (‘Mo’), wielding a sword. Built in 1847 during the Qing dynasty by wealthy Chinese merchants, it was, besides a place of worship, a court of arbitration for local disputes when trust was thin between the Chinese and the colonialists.
Oaths taken at this Taoist temple (often accompanied by the ritual beheading of a rooster) were accepted by the colonial government. Outside the main entrance are four gilt plaques on poles that used to be carried around at processions. Two describe the gods being worshipped inside, one requests silence and a show of respect within the temple’s grounds, and the last warns menstruating women to keep out of the main hall.
Lending the temple its beguiling and smoky air are rows of large earth-coloured spirals suspended from the roof, like overgrown fungi in an upside-down garden. These are incense coils burned as offerings by worshippers.
Off to the side is Lit Shing Kung, the ‘saints’ palace’, a place of worship for other Buddhist and Taoist deities. Another hall, Kung Sor (‘public meeting place’), used to serve as a court of justice to settle disputes among the Chinese community before the modern judicial system was introduced. A couplet at the entrance urges those entering to leave their selfish interests and prejudices outside. Fortune tellers beckon from inside.
Back on the Star Ferry crossing over to Kowloon, we rush to catch our shuttle bus to be back on the ship in time for a mandatory life boat drill since we have new passengers getting aboard here in Hong Kong. We made the bus by 1 minute!