We went down to the shopping mall underneath the hotel for breakfast. Found a nice French restaurant (French! In Hong Kong! May we be forgiven…) I ordered waffles and green-tea, Husband ordered Full English, and English breakfast tea. When it arrived, the tea was a teabag in a bowl, and a teapot of hot water. Various comments about the lack of cup, milk, sugar…but we coped.
May is rainy season, so the weather was damp, but Hong Kong has lots of pedestrian walkways and subways and places to shelter, so we walked down to the quay. The streets outside the hotel were refreshingly normal, after the glitz of the hotel and the designer mall. Many of the shops could have been in Europe, but there were also shops with huge teapots in the window, selling cups of tea to shoppers; and Chinese medicine shops, with their boxes of expensive potions; and shops for tourists, piled with leather goods and silk shirts and ornaments, so we never forgot we were in China.
There were also lots of normal people wandering around, mostly wearing white trainer shoes. There seems to be a lot of white trainers in Hong Kong, worn with trousers and skirts and even quite fancy dresses. I guess it’s practical – there are a lot of puddles. I also wore white trainers — an old pair of Reeboks from 1994 (vintage).
Some of the streets were lined with ancient trees, a kind of ficus, with aerial roots that grew down until they reached the earth and could form another trunk. I’ve seen them in botanical gardens in England–here they are everywhere.
We stood for a while on the quay, looking across the water towards Hong Kong Island and Central. It was so exciting, just to be here. (Sometimes I have to remind myself: I’m in Hong Kong…Wow!) The Star Ferry was shuttling backwards and forwards, and there was a junk–one of those ‘typically Chinese’ ships, with big sails (a tourist boat, not an ancient one) selling rides.
We also saw the cultural centre, which for some reason is covered in pink tiles (pink!) and despite having the best view over the water, it was designed with no windows. We didn’t go inside, so perhaps the interior is fabulous.
We walked a little way along the docks, but they’re fairly industrial, so we walked back inland and through the Elements shopping mall where we had dumplings for lunch at The Night Market restaurant.
In the evening, we went to the night market — the real one — in Temple Street. I have heard about this market on previous visits, and it features in all the guidebooks, so I was expecting something interesting. I was disappointed…
The market begins with a Chinese gate (a paifang) and a whole lot of tourists taking photos underneath. The market stretched, damply, for several streets, and is well lit with bright lights, and all the stalls are covered, so the rain didn’t matter (unless you stood in the wrong place and got a fat drip of water on your head). It was quite busy, though not too crowded, and the stalls were full of bright, interesting items.
However, I had expected something more authentic, something where local people might shop for a bargain. It wasn’t, it was a tourist market, and the stalls sold much of the same product, repeated over and over again. The prices were fluid, and you were meant to barter, but it wasn’t fun, the stall-holders seemed bored, if I’m honest. They were obviously selling stuff they’d bought cheaply in China and were selling for a profit – so no one had any really interest in what they were selling, they hadn’t made it, they didn’t seem to even like it. There were leather-bound notebooks, and silk clothes, and paper-cutting novelties, and toys, and fridge magnets. The prices got cheaper the further into the market you went, but after seeing about 10 stalls, really you had seen them all, as they simply repeated. I didn’t like the atmosphere in the market. Usually markets are fun, and the bartering is almost a game, and people laugh and are pleased to make a sale. But this one felt as if something dodgy was happening in the background, and the people selling didn’t really want to be there at all. Perhaps it was the rain and the jet-lag, perhaps it was just me, but I found it unexpectedly disappointing.
The streets surrounding the market are full of street food. People were perched, trying to avoid the rain, and eating freshly killed fish and vegetables and noodles. We walked around, absorbing the aroma and the ferocity that is Chinese cooking. The streets are cleaner than places we’ve visited in China, and the main areas are well-lit and safe to wander around at night (I’m not sure about some of the back streets, but it’s a city—you should always be careful in a city.)
We went back to the hotel, and tried to sleep. I’m not sure what time zone I’m in now–neither UK time nor Hong Kong time. Ah well, I guess it doesn’t matter.
Hope you have a good day.
Love, Anne x
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by Anne E Thompson
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