Hong Kong: "Lovely 可爱"

Hong Kong 香港
Special Administrative Region
April 13, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

Their answers were always the same.

Whenever I asked other tourists what they liked best about Hong Kong, they responded heartily:

"Hong Kong is safe and clean. Transportation is excellent. Service is efficient. Shopping is supreme. The streets are buzzing. The food is good. The sights are impressive."

As one Aussie couple explained, "Hong Kong is lovely."

(And, if you are of that certain age, transportation by bus, subway, train or ferry is half price. The dramatic Star Ferry Victoria Harbor crossing is even free! Anyone can buy the normal adult Octopus travel card for all transportation, but the half price card is only for "Elders." "Elder" is such a civil and respectful term, is it not?)

My first trip to Hong Kong was also quite lovely. My hotel was on the waterfront in the Tsim Sha Tsi area of the Kowloon peninsula. Every day I strolled along the harbour-side Promenade and the Avenue of the Stars with tourists from China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea, gawking at the skyline of hundreds of corporate skyscrapers and residential towers across the harbour on Hong Kong Island .

I found the Hong Kong Museum of Art with its collection of ancient Chinese ceramics.

The streets around the Man Mo Temple were crowded with antique and chachka טשאַטשקע shops.

My walking tour included Kowloon Park and the municipal building plazas. I flirted with a few of the hundreds of Indonesian and Philippine domestic workers who were spending their day off together in small, picnic-style gatherings that filled and crowded the open space areas. Lunch, a manicure, a pedicure, a hair cut, cards and bingo are their spirited outdoor activities for the sunny afternoon.

At my hotel, I politely intruded on a wedding party photo shoot.

I rode the KCR train to the New Territories - a vast area that stretches to the China border - formerly farmland, but now filled with concrete residential towers. There are several off-the-beaten-track sites to see.  I needed my best navigational skills. Piece of cake. 一塊蛋糕

I boarded the East Rail Line at East Tsim Sha Tsui. From East Tsim Sha Tsui to Tai Wai to change for the Ma On Shan Line to Che Kung Temple. Then back to the Che Kung Temple stop to Tai Wai to change to the East Rail Line onward to Sha Tin. Then Sha Tin back to East Tsim Sha Tsui. Piece of cake. 一块蛋糕

Using the well marked street and directional signs, it was easy enough to find my way to Che Kung Temple and the statue of Che Kung. One of the attendants there was folding small pieces of gold painted paper into even smaller bird-like figures. At the time, I had no idea of their significance.

It was still easy to follow a few more signs to Tsang Tai Uk, a tiny walled village of small family homes and temples.

Back at Sha Tin, my goal was to see the Monastery of 10,000 Buddhas. I came out of the train station and looked up to see a tall pagoda on the horizon. I followed the crowd towards the hill and up a series of escalators to the top. Fake out! This was not the Monastery, but a Chinese cemetery -- a tower of the dead that contains hundreds of plaques on the walls. Behind each plaque (some have a photo) lie the cremated remains of the deceased.

It was a public holiday and the air was festive. Family groups had gathered and were enjoying a light meal. I spotted a young couple who were folding gold and silver coated pieces of paper. They explained that along with other pieces of printed "money," the three-dimensional gold and silver paper designs are placed into a very large empty rice bag. The rice bag is then "cremated."  This symbolic money is needed by their ancestors in heaven. In return, their ancestors will watch over them here.

It was no easy trek to the Monastery of 10,000 Buddhas. The guide book warned me of a climb of more than 400 steps. Along each step, on both sides of the stone walkway were large golden figures, no two alike. This was a mostly "happy" climb. There even were monkeys scampering overhead along the horizontal bamboo branches.

The Monastery displayed many other monumental statues.  Further up at the top were statues of female goddesses. A young woman (a New Yorker as it turned out) was also making the climb, so I remarked to her that the females are at the very top. "Well, that is important," she said.

The Monastery served a spicy vegetarian lunch. The views of the territory and the towers below were lovely.

My first days in Hong Kong have not been so challenging or adventurous. But they have been "lovely." And I am planning two side-trips, both by ferry through the South China Sea.  First to the former Portuguese enclave.  Then to the largest island of the Hong Kong SAR.  Wish me luck.

Always,

Elder Jan

老年男子 和也 可爱的

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