Hong Kong day 3

I’m meeting KK at mong kok. First I have breakfast in a little veggie shop nearby. The sole lady customer there translates and I get the default fried noodles and congee. We chat about travel and hiking and she unexpectedly pays for my breakfast. She warns me of pickpockets in China.

The metro escalators have signs reassuring us that the hand rails have been sterilised regularly. This is a hangover from SARS. This closed down hk for a week. KK told me the schools were closed and lessons took place remotely. Elsewhere you see labels on doors in public places also confirming sterilisation. I’m later reprimanded by KK in a restaurant for not serving myself with the third pair of chopsticks given to us. 

KK is waiting for me at mong kok station and takes me on a tour of the market streets. The so called sneaker street is being set up. Red white and blue shrouded trolleys with goods are wheeled into place. Steel frames and white awnings erected by shirtless deep brown skinned swearing traders. There is a street that sells predominantly baby milk powder, popular with Chinese visitors… We see goldfish street, with shops full of tanks and bags of brightly coloured fish being carefully selected and  fished out with little nets on poles by customers. Other shops have puppies and kittens in little Perspex boxes that little kids point at with joy. I feel pity. There are bowls full of miniature tortoises and tanks containing handsome reptiles. At least these are not going to be bought to be eaten. KK takes me to a music shop full of erhu skinned with snake skin and guzheng with beautiful  carved decorations. We are here for strings for KK’ s erhu which turn out to be made in Germany. It’s raining outside. I delight in photographing people struggling with umbrellas and old street people struggling with loads pulled by ropes over their shoulders. There is a foot bridge lined with clusters of scarves young women sitting on sheets, sharing boxes of food, brushing their hair, taking selfies and video chatting. They seem cheerful and are not homeless. This is where Indonesian and Filipino maids gather and socialise during their time off. Kk’s family have a mid. He says they earn quite good money. We pass by a pro Falun Gong banner and leafleters. Adjacent it is an anti Falun Gong banner and photos of prominent members mocked as demons. The guy manning this display has a body cam and films us, we are sure. This cause KK to take some distance. KK wants a pineapple bun or a custard tart but I’m afraid i direct us to a veggie Buddhist place where we share a round table with a woman who recommends some dishes to us. She pours me some ta from the communal flask and KK instructs me to kowtow by tapping my fingers on the table to show thanks. With more heavy rain we need a new plan. KK suggests a bus trip to west Kowloon. It takes a while before a bus that isn’t overcrowded comes along. We see KK’ birthplace – the hospital, a bunch of international schools, the hk media university with a military camp strategically planed right next to it, and end up in a residential village ( the term used in hk for housing estate) backing onto lion rock, which only vaguely looks like a lion to me. We walk through the tower blocks to the Wong tai sin temple, which is closed. There is a shopping mall next to it with large imitations of coiled incense as a decorative motif. KK has to leave now, and I remain in the square watching the beginning of a political rally, a small boy playing in a puddle and a couple of skateboarders. It’s dusk and I feel a bit introspective and think about the start of the day when I opened Lisas email telling me how valued I am and by the way I haven’t got the job. It’s not nice feeling rejected, and to be honest either way I’m not looking forward to my work situation when I get back.

I have dinner at an Indian near Nathan road. The thali is great and the lassi refreshing but rather expensive. The Indian at the next table keeps belching loudly… Different culture, different manners.. Around tsim Sha tsui huge groups of teens are gathered looking at their phones. It doesn’t require very close inspection to realise that Pokemon go has taken over the city!

I get the metro to admiralty then change to fortress hill. I investigate the food bridge that crosses in front of my block and find it carries on over an alley into electric road. Under the bridget there is fascinating local nightlife here. It’s too hot to be inside with no air con. An old foursome sat around a foldable table playing cards, a number of makeshift homes that seem to almost be permanent are carefully constructed from cardboard and blankets. There skinny shirtless skinny owners talk quietly on the benches nearby. I’m going to my little room.

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Hong Kong day 2 part 2

After reaching the road at pok fu lam we dither about the next step, and owing to time we decide to head back clockwise around the island to soho on the bus. A little walk down some steps takes us past and diverted into a couple of broc a brac shops, the second being rammed with cameras, projectors, old games consoles, memorabilia such as presentation plaques from various defunct regiments and place departments, old prints of yesteryear including crazy shots of airliners approaching the old hk airport through a canyon of sky scrapers. The usual approach route I believe. There are some old news articles from 1989 from the hk press with photos of the build up to what became the tragedy of tianenmen. Would be good to show my Chinese students this. 

We find the man mo temple dedicated to the God of literature. The wooden beams are hung with smoking coils of incense. I remark on how calming the place is. If you tune into the atmosphere of the temple the constant city noise outside disappears. We talk about smells and my nose seems to have been stimulated by incense, KK notices a smell of cement that evokes his primary school. For a few minutes almost at each step I notice a new and different smell.

I get excited on spying mangosteens, my favourite fruit. The first one is rotten. KK turns down the offer when he sees the mess my hands get into. There are 3 veggie restaurants here. One near to the old west market, an Edwardian market hall now converted into boutique food stalls. The first promises all you can eat but turns out to charge by weight and is rather cold and unfriendly. We end up in a place which serves ” members only ” but they let us in. All the tables are reserved and we have a window of 1 hour to eat. Service is forgetful and slow. KK remarks again on the friendliness standard, and isn’t overly impressed with the food. I find the braised fungi quite interesting, fleshy and fibrous. KK has issues with food textures and some mushrooms and later I introduce him to the word umami. I walk KK to bus bus stop then get the tram back to base.

Hong Kong day 2

I have breakfast in the congee shop downstairs. The menu is stuff like tripe and congee, but thanks to a menu surprisingly also in English I get a soya milk, sesame dough cake and a bowl of mandarin and red bean soup. It turns out to be very filling as I don’t eat again until dinner time. 
I meet KK at the hsbc where we get the tour of the virtual app, then head off up flights of steps then elevators which take us up the mid central hills, passing a quaint algae stained blue mosque on the way. Reminds me of the Royal pavilion, I tell KK. He is reluctant to enter initially. Seems he has some prejudice about how welcoming it might be. As it turns out the garden is open, but the mosque is not. When the escalators end we have to find our bearings and discover we are not en route for the peak as expected and have to skirt around the hill before picking up the very steep old peak road which twists up through the trees, past some road works for cable for those elite that can afford a mansion on this prized location. The peak is a little bit anti climatic, we are not the only ones there of course, and it is crowned by 2 malls and an antique funicular tram car which serves as an information centre. After some drinks we head for the roof of the mall which doesn’t require a fee. The view is the famous one through the gap to the sky scrapers of central, the bay and Kowloon. It truly is outstanding. This is a famed spot for silly selfies. This obsession with self is reinforced with a facility called 3D photos or something like that. It seems to be a place full of scenes and models that you can pose with and live out fantasies. Ride a lion, be a Qing emperor etc. Reminds me of the weird culture of Madame Tussaud s and the places at the forbidden city and the terracotta warriors where you can dress up and pose in a diaroma for faux photos, at a charge. The view on the other side is also dramatic. The south side of the mountain, the sea and lamma island with its power station chimneys in the near distance.

Refreshed, though with sweat sodden shirts we agree to walk on, down the other side of the mountain to Aberdeen, but not in Scotland! The walk is easy, and not very remarkable. It’s Tarmac, flanked by trees and stone buttressing. There are streams rushing down to the reservoirs, two of which we pass. We see a row of huts cut into the Rock, but now bricked up. Probably some kind of ww2 guard posts, we guess.

Tbc