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Hong Kong is a cultural crossroads so we had lattes (Italy via Seattle) in a Japanese store (Sogos) in English style bone china with Dutch inspired decorations (made in Japan) listening to phonetic versions of chansons and soft jazz and we bought eel sushi and sesame rice crackers and peach mango tea to mix the cuisines.

Then MTR to Central and looking at the fountains and Christmas decorations and nice restaurants and round in circles while we find the bus to Stanley (turns out the buses are underneath the plaza). The bus switchbacks up over the hill and down along the coast to Repulse Bay (where one apartment building has a whole for the dragon to fly through and a new semicircular building looks a perfect Bond villain headquarters) and then stops just above Stanley, which runs downhill to the sea. The market is a long covered alley of stalls and shops, with tat, silk and everything in between. The promenade will be lovely when they finish building it: for now it's a building site. The Tin Hau temple is dark with gleams from the statues: the skin of a tiger shot in Stanley in years gone by has turned black with age and incense smoke.

Stanley Main Street is Spanking Monkey Sportsbar territory, with fish and chips and Carlsberg on offer. We eat thai at Murray House, an imposing granite mansion that used to be on the site of the Bank of China (the spikey building) and was moved brick by brick.

Back on the bus, through Repulse Bay and round to Aberdeen, where factories line the streets, high rise flats line the harbour and sampans ply between the fishing boats, ferry piers and the giant floating restaurants; they aren't many houseboats left but it's still wooden boats side by side with the modern city. We watch three men practice tai chi with swords. Fish eagles hover over almost any waterfront in Hong Kong but they hover more and swoop lower over the fish market. Flocks of white herons fly the length of the harbour and mynah birds chatter past us to roost in deafening hordes in the trees. It gets dark early in the tropics and the sky turns pink soon after five.

The express bus back to Central goes through the tunnel, with colour-coded times for standard routes. A golden dragon curls up at one intersection, balancing a pearl on his tongue: at the back of an arcade is a tiled wall of dragons. We take the weirdly thin double decker tram back to Causeway Bay: all the windows are open and after the heat of the day it's a balmy evening. After a quick rest at the hotel we head out to the night market on Temple Street. Think Berwick Street market on steroids and acid: tightly crowded stalls selling shiny hair clips, torches, t shirts, jade, dildos, kimonos, hats, bags, pirate DVDs and a hundred other things. We follow the guidebooks instructions on haggling and probably still overpay but we're happy.

There are plenty of restaurants with tables on the pavement. We stop at one with a tout who looks like the bad guy in Kung Fu Hustle and have crab and prawns with cashew nuts and fried rice and choi sum (which last redeems us of whatever it is that the tout complains of about the prawns). Delicious: and less disturbing than the wiggling mantis prawns on plates, or the frogs I see under a bushel or the clams that stick their tongue out at us. Enormous bottles of Tsing Tao appear and it turns out we're thirsty!

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full steam ahead
marypcb
Mary Branscombe
Simon & Mary

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