10 October 2009

Hong Kong, Vol. III: being the most tourist-y tourists we could

Thanks in large part to the publications that we had picked up at the tourism office (and also to Kathleen’s Lonely Planet: China guide), we had a lot on our agenda - and nearly all of it screamed “tourist!” But we didn’t care - we WERE tourists. So, to kick off our Saturday morning, we decided to ride the last remaining authentic junk boat in Hong Kong.

This was a good plan, in theory: we wanted to catch the earliest ride at 10:00 from the nearby pier and then alight across the bay in another district that we wanted to explore, Central. We would then spend the day in Central and come back in the evening to partake in a lantern festival and dragon dance. The foil to this plan was our combined severe lack of alarms/ability to wake up in the mornings.

We drifted in and out of various stages on consciousness in the morning before realizing that if we did not all get up and get showers RIGHT THEN, we were going to miss the junk completely - it only ran two days a week from two locations, and we were going to be pushing it to make our last shot at it. We got into gear, hurried around the subway station in what we vaguely knew to be the right direction, and made it to the pier with about twenty minutes to spare. We were unclear as to whether or not we needed a ticket to board, and we had no idea, if so, where we could purchase said ticket; so, we just waited at the pier and hoped that we could glean some understanding either by watching other potential passengers or just talking to the crew when the boat arrived.

It turns out that we actually did need a ticket beforehand; it could not be purchased upon boarding. The crew member must have noticed my crestfallen glance, though, as I processed this information, so he offered to let all of us on - for free, even though we had our money out and ready to pay! The ride was relaxing and fun; we got to see a lot of the bay area and bask in the warm rays of sunlight while gently swaying to the waves.

(And we still went back to eat lunch at the Subway that we had spotted earlier - we had resigned ourselves to no boat ride and decided to just enjoy a meal before our luck had changed. But even after we received said boat ride, we were still craving that good ol’ American food. Might I add that it was absolutely the most delicious Subway meal that I have ever tasted? After watching Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle the night before, I believe that the following is an appropriate comparison: Subway was our White Castle that day.)

We spent the rest of the day strolling along the Avenue of Stars and shopping at a large market/bazaar. That night, we tried (in vain) to view a local dragon dance (at least we tried, right?!)

The next day, Sunday, we deemed our Learning Day: we started with the Hong Kong Museum of Art. It had less exhibits but more chances to interact than I had expected - all in all, it was probably my favorite part of the day. I could spend days in art museums. To add to my good mood, on the way out, we stopped at the museum café for some delicious food: I got a Caesar salad whose dressing was more like a cross of Caesar and honey mustard than just plain Caesar - it sounds gross, but it was wonderful - and Kathleen got chips and salsa that were the perfect combination of crispiness and spiciness, while Karim and Caitlin each got a dessert. And to top off our art museum experience, leaving the café led us straight into an arts and crafts fair reminiscent of the PCMS Octoberfest in that dozens of local artisans set up tables with their wares while musicians performed for a casual audience. I got a henna tattoo at one booth and greatly enjoyed viewing everything from jewelry to paper cutting art to crocheting at the others while hearing the sweet sounds of jazz and jamming in the background.

We lingered so long outside the art museum that we nearly missed our planned excursion to Kowloon Park to see Kung Fu Corner - but we didn’t. We found the park easily and then got lost inside, finally arriving to see twenty or thirty minutes of the show. It was impressive! We saw students and teachers demonstrate individual and team fighting techniques with and without props. It was worth the walk there.

When the show ended, we decided to hit up another museum, the Hong Kong Space Museum. It was clearly geared toward younger kids, as nearly everything was interactive, but we didn’t mind - that made it fun! There wasn’t much to see that I hadn’t already seen at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. - especially seeing as Hong Kong is not particularly known for their advancements in space exploration. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the exhibits.

We hurried back to the hostel from the museum so that Karim could meet Ameen, a friend of his father’s, to go to a local prayer hall, or jamathka. Caitlin worked on the computer while Kathleen and I napped for an hour or two, and then the three of us met Karim and Ameen, at Ameen’s invitation, downstairs. Ameen treated us to dinner and a ferry ride across the bay before showing us a collection of lanterns in celebration of the 2009 East Asian Games hosted by Hong Kong. He also walked us down a few streets in our Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood, pointing out good places to eat. After he dropped us off back at Cosmic, we decided to venture back out to a bar that we had passed - Ned Kelly’s Last Stand - to hear some good jazz. There was reportedly a live band that night. We arrived to find the band on break, so we waited around for a while until they came back. When they did, it was as if I was back in high school - I was ready to jam with them on euphonium, as ludicrous as that sounds. It was a fun night, though.

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