Finding Hong Kong
I set out (Husband was at work) to try and discover some more of Hong Kong – the bits that aren’t necessarily in the guidebooks. I left the hotel via the Elements shopping mall, because that seems to be the easiest way to walk from the hotel. I’m rubbish at finding my way, and often get lost, so I have a list of directions in my notebook: turn right after escalator, walk to Moynat, walk past sculpture, turn right at concierge, etc. It takes me safely past all the shops which look exactly the same, and to the covered walkways that cross the major roads. There are steps down to the pavement, or a lift, which has a screen next to it showing you who is inside (very comforting if you’re a single female, as can avoid entering lift with weird man loitering inside).
Next to the road are several tall apartment blocks, washing hanging on balconies, plant pots crowding the windows. I walked up Ferry Street, which is busy with small shops and cafes. These shops tend to be open-fronted, so you walk inside and the products are arranged either side, along the walls. There is usually a stool near the door, with someone perched by a till, eating a bowl of noodles while they wait for a sale, or reading a newspaper, or chatting to the person on the adjacent stool in the adjacent shop. I walked along Saigon Street, and could see the end of markets in the streets that joined, and cheaper shops. There were more people, but no European faces.
I reached Nathan road, which is wide and busy, with bigger shops and people look richer, like office workers or tourists. There is a rest area – a small park with granite seats, and trees next to Chinese-style bridges and roofs, sparrows hopping on the ground. I sat for a moment and drank some water, but all the time there is the loud drone of traffic edging along the road—buses and lorries and taxis—it isn’t peaceful unless you’re deaf.
I had decided to walk up Nathan road until it met Boundary Street. I thought it would be easy, to walk along one road, but somehow I managed to be on the wrong street. There was a pedestrian detour, and a tangle of roads, and I merrily marched up completely the wrong one, and then found it tricky to find my way back to Nathan road. The streets were narrow, and busy and dirty, lined with parked cars and vans, people working on the street—so you had to be careful not to trip over men welding or constructing something.
I reached Boundary Street. This is very straight, and marks the line that was drawn when the British said they needed more land because Hong Kong Island was overcrowded. They were given this part of Kowloon (apparently in perpetuity, but that seems to have been forgotten now). There is another tiny park on the corner of Nathan Street and Boundary Street—with a water feature, and plants and seats—rather overshadowed by the huge fly-over which looms above, so you aren’t tempted to stay for long (unless you are deaf—being deaf might be quite nice in Hong Kong, which is one of the noisiest cities I have visited).
I walked to Flower Market Street—which is where all the flower sellers are (clue in the name). It’s beautiful (just don’t look at the fly-over next to it). There is shop after shop, all selling flowers—some in complicated arrangements, tall tubs of sunflowers, great bowls of lilies, tiny bonsai trees. The smell is wonderful.
At the end of the road is the bird garden. It’s along an alleyway, and I wasn’t sure, at first, whether it was sensible to walk there on my own. But then I saw an old man, carrying a birdcage, so I decided it was worth the risk. The alleyway soon opens out into a little Chinese market. Here, you can buy anything you need for your pet bird. There were sacks of grains, and bags of live insects, and different kinds of cages. People bring their birds here, and hang them up, then sit and chat to each other—a bit like taking your dog for a walk. I did see several elderly men walking around, carrying their birdcages, but I felt I should only take surreptitious photos, so you’ll have to imagine.
Behind the stalls, people were chatting, eating their lunch, making birdcages, and feeding the birds. I don’t like birds in cages, but if you suspend moral judgement – which I think you ought to when visiting a culture you don’t understand fully – then it is terribly interesting. The best thing, I thought, were all the wild birds who came for a free meal. All the sacks of grain had sparrows and pigeons having a feast, almost as if in defiance in front of all the caged birds.
I walked back along a street full of fish—goldfish of all sizes, in bags of water, strung up on stands in doorways. Presumably they all survive, as there was shop after shop of them but they reminded me of the fish we used to win at fairgrounds, and they always died.
There was also a fruit market. Groups of men lurked at the back, playing cards or mah-jong, while the women did all the work. The fruit looked amazing, fresh oranges and strange spikey fruit and bright dragon fruit and bananas still attached to stalks. I would have liked to buy some bananas, but the thought of trying to communicate in Cantonese, and the effort of working out the money, was too much. Instead, I bought an unsatisfactory looking banana from a 7-Eleven round the corner.
Made it back to the hotel without getting lost. I was met in the foyer by a worried looking man in a suit, asking if he could help me—I’m guessing I looked rather dishevelled and he thought I had wandered into his posh hotel by mistake!
Thanks for reading. Have a fun day.
Love, Anne x
Looking for a great read?
The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary
by Anne E Thompson
Hong Kong gets more fascinating!