A month in...

By: Gray Carper

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Saturday, 3-Jul-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Welcome to my running Hong Kong commentary!

Hello, all!

This is an attempt to present the journal I kept during my trip to Hong Kong - pages of text with only a handful of pictures. Perhaps not completely in the spirit of a "photo page", but close enough. You will notice that Fotopages places a dateline at the top of each entry - these in no way match my journal dates, so just ignore them. I will, however, place the actual journal date within each subject line. Also, I'm mildly manipulating the Fotopages chronological update system in order to have the entries run top-to-bottom (for those who wish to read the whole account in one pass). That'll explain the reverse-order datelines which reach into the past.

Enough clerical mouth-flappin' - let's get started!


Friday, 2-Jul-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
A Day of Flying: Monday, May 31st to Tuesday, June 1st, 2004

My in-flight entertainment!
Narita International Airport...in a disorienting fish-eye view.
A transportation map which highlights the airport and Kwun Tong
View all 12 photos...
Let us begin at the beginning - inside the Detroit Metropolitan Airport as I await my first flight. I was comfortably sitting in the gate 28 waiting area of the Northwest terminal, reading a bit about Cantonese grammar, when a few fellows from Alabama entered my view. While standing, they finished their vigorous conversation and, eventually, one broke from the group to sit directly across from me. (The others presumably went off in search of other departing flights.) Though his friends fled, he still had that "I want to talk" look about him...so I knew things would get interesting when he chose an open seat between a Korean gentleman and a Japanese gentleman. He tried to begin chatting with both, but only the Korean man responded...and my simple words cannot describe the embarrassing awkwardness of the conversation which was to come. Let me share a few direct quotes...

Quote:
Ya'll do well for Asians.

Quote:
There are so many places in Asia that you want to get out and see!

Quote:
Most Asian people are excellent at math.

Quote:
You all know everything about electronics.


While certainly complimentary, he didn't seem to have any trouble generalizing half of the earth's population into one category...I wonder what he would think if the Korean man had said "All you westerners sure like to talk!" (On second thought, he might take it as a compliment. ) My favorite moment, though, involved a Korean child opposite him (who had never been a part of the conversation). He suddenly turned to the child, said "Do. You. Play. Baseball?", and then returned to his original topic with the Korean man. Bizarre.

Now for a little sidebar: You may be wondering why I know the nationalities of the actors in this little drama. Two reasons...
    (1) I heard each of them speak in their native tongue.

    (2) In the case of the Alabaman, he made his state of origin clear on many occasions.

Back to the show...

Aside from my shock at the man's cultural insensitivity, I was quite entertained as I eavesdropped on the entire exchange (well...I say "exchange"...but the Korean man barely spoke!). Thankfully, though, the United States was saved from further shame when the call for boarding came.

Into the plane! This was, by far, the longest ride I'd ever endured. It was a direct flight from Detroit to the Narita airport in Tokyo, Japan and lasted twelve hours. Thank goodness for Gameboy! Aside from extensive play time with "Wing Commander Prophecy", I had the great pleasure of sitting with a Thai elderly couple who own a series of restaurants in Pittsburgh (each known as Thai Place). After a little bit of small talk, my VT drive took over (as is common) and I mentioned that I had lived in Blacksburg, VA for eight years. Immediate recognition flashed in their eyes and they went on to tell me that their daughter had just accepted a job in Blacksburg as the new Director of Virginia Tech Student Health Services! Amazing! And, as it turned out, she was also on the plane, so her parents ran to get her once we discovered this connection. I chatted with her for over an hour about Blacksburg, which was a wonderful reminiscence for me, and was really struck with how wonderful this director will be. VT students are in good hands! We concluded our conversation when her children wanted her to join them for the showing of "Peter Pan", so off she went to the rear of the plane and back I went to "Wing Commander". After a while, I decided to attempt some sleep, but had spotty success and might have pieced together an hour of actual unconsciousness before we landed in Japan...on June 1st! I'd lost a day while on that plane (actual flight time plus twelve hours of timezone change).

In Narita, all passengers going to connecting flights must submit their carry-on items for another security scan before entering the terminal. This takes some time, and my layover wasn't very long, so I actually had to run to catch my connection. I made it, but couldn't help feeling a little sad about my all-too-short stay in Tokyo. One thing I will say about Narita, though: evening takeoff is gorgeous! You cross over a number of rice fields, which have similar patchwork patterns to those one might see above farms in the Midwest, but are saturated with water. This causes the land to glisten while catching the reflection of the moon! Breathtaking. Also, there was an extremely dense, yet very thin, cloud-layer over Tokyo - it was striking to pass through it...seeing land suddenly become clouds in less then a second. On this flight, which was direct to Hong Kong and lasted about four hours, I continued a bit of Cantonese study. After a little while, I struck up a conversation with my row-mate, Wendy, a very friendly Hong Konger who now lives in New York. She left Hong Kong twenty years ago and returns at least once every year! I'd later meet with Wendy again during the final week of the trip.

Flying in to Hong Kong at night was very beautiful, with many lights scattered in clusters across the islands. Originally, the airport was situated in Kowloon, a portion of Hong Kong which is connected to the mainland of China. During that era, tales of terror came from incoming passengers because planes had to fly between tall buildings on final approach! Now, the airport is on Lantau Island, a part of Hong Kong that is a little separated from most of the buildings, so the landing sequence isn't so pulse-racing. After deplaning, I went through customs with no trouble and collected my luggage easily. Katherine arrived a few minutes later and we were off to her parents' house!

I was hit with Hong Kong weather as soon as we left the nicely air-conditioned terminal - ninety degrees Fahrenheit and well over 50% humidity...at 10:00 PM! We boarded an *air-conditioned* double-decker bus (simply known as a 'bus' in Hong Kong - which is important because is it distinguished from another popular form of transportation: the 'mini-bus'), climbed to the top, and sat in the front row. I got an up-close view of Lantau and Kowloon...and I got an up-close experience with insane Hong Kong bus drivers! After a few days, I became used to this, but on that night I was surprised to see how fast these guys roll and how good they are at maneuvering a huge bus (a.k.a. shaving the adjacent traffic) at high speeds. I noticed a few extra hairs on my chest afterwards, which I will speak no more about.

About an hour later, we were safely in Katherine's parent's apartment in the Kwun Tong district. Now, I speak more Cantonese than Katherine's parents speak English (i.e. not a whole lot - though they are fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin, and a number of other dialects), but their smiles welcomed me warmly and I assaulted them with some big hugs (which is NOT part of Chinese culture in general). After a bit of searching, I was also able to meet Katherine's three cats (who were shy and always hiding at first, but warmed to me later): Bo-Bo, Bear-Bear, and Jeut-Jeut. Kitty play was quick with these shy ones, so we soon sat down for a late night snack of freshly-opened durian, mangosteen, lychee, rambutan, and lugu (aka "longkong")! (All of which are near-impossible-to-find fruits in the States...at least, in their fresh form. And you never find them this fresh.) Then, after about thirty waking hours, shower and sleep!

Before I close this entry, I should briefly tell you about each fruit you'll see in the pictures...
    Durian - Known as "King of the Fruits" due to their enormous size (they can grow to be much larger than watermelons), Durians are, for lack of a better term, a controversial fruit. It is said that durians "taste like heaven, but smell like hell"...and, as such, there is a clear division between people who like durian and people who do not. The meat of the fruit, when fully ripened, is very much like a smooth custard and can easily be eaten out of the spike-encrusted shell with a spoon. But, the pungent smell intensifies with age, so to get the perfect texture, you must have olfactory endurance!

    Lychee - My favorite, and the favorite of many Hong Kongers. About the size of a Damson plum, lychees are sweet, juicy, and so very tender when fresh. Fortunately, of all these fruits, this is the one we have more access to in the States - during the month of June (lychee season) and sometime July, you can find them in grocery stores which specialize in world foods (case in point: I just saw a boxful in the Chinese grocery store down the street from here). Lychees have many different species and each one has a different market value...a typical indicator of price, though, is the size of the pit. The smaller the pit, the more expensive the lychee. Of course, because the cost of food in Hong Kong is so inexpensive (which I'll talk about later), we're only talking about the difference between $0.60 per pound and $1.20 per pound.

    Lugu - This was my first time trying lugu, and it was wonderful! They are a little smaller than large Concord grapes and, after peeling of the coarse, brown skin, you can see that each fruit contains six small, white wedges which are connected by a thin rind...much like the way orange slices are stitched together. All you need do is plop the peeled sphere into your mouth, fish out the rind as you eat, and enjoy the faintly banana-like flavor.

    Mangosteen - Known as "Queen of the Fruits" because of its complimentary nature to durian, Mangosteen pith contains a deep-red juice which will badly stain if any finds its way to your clothing. The meat of the fruit, however, is a pure white and contains mostly sweet nectar. It is easiest to pull a segment (there are six in each Mangosteen), suck it dry, and spit out the remaining seed.

    Rambutan - I tend to think that this must be related to lychee because the similarities are striking. Similar in skin texture, similar in fruit texture, similar in size, similar in taste, similar in pit appearance...but they are definitely not the same. Rambutans are generally more dense and less tender than the average lychee...and the pit is very easy to rupture, which leaves a rather bitter taste. Perhaps the most appealing part of the rambutan, though, is its amazing beauty!


Enough! Now you must twiddle your thumbs until I complete my next entry...


Thursday, 1-Jul-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
A Day of Jet-Lag: Wednesday, June 2nd, 2004

A map of the Earth which has Hong Kong's local area highlighted.
A map of Southeast Asia which has Hong Kong highlighted.
Milo! Chocolicious!
View all 19 photos...
Starting today, I'll be providing you with a Hong Kong informational tidbit (related to society, culture, geography, etc) at the top of each entry. These will be elements which might not be directly related to my day-to-day experiences, but are still a part of the knowledge I gained on the trip and would like to share with you. That said, here's the first...

    Hong Kong Tidbit: World Geography
    Now that you've seen a map of Hong Kong itself (which you will see many times again ), it is important to take a step back and place Hong Kong in context with the rest of the Earth. Above you'll find two maps, one of the entire world and another which focuses on Southeast Asia. They are designed to show you that Hong Kong is a region which lies in the southeast corner of China and is surrounded by Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the Chinese island of Taiwan. Given this central location, it is probably not too difficult to understand why Hong Kong has quickly become the commercial and cultural hub of Southeast Asia!

Having not slept for thirty hours, you would expect me to collapse from exhaustion upon arrival, right? Well, you'd be wrong! A combination of jet-lag and sheer excitement prevented me from getting more than an hour of sleep during my first night, so the eventual waking tally would climb to about forty-five hours. This morning, I arose at 6:00 AM to find that Katherine's parents were also stirring, so I joined them for a bit of breakfast...

    Meal Marker: Breakfast
    Light wheat bread with ginger jam and/or homemade durian jam.
    A glass of Milo (which is an instant chocolate-flavored beverage created by Nestle - delicious hot or cold!)

After breakfast, one of Katherine's "aunties", A-Yi, came for a little visit. Before really settling-in, though, she needed Katherine's mother to lead her to a local hairstylist, so Katherine and I joined them for a stroll around the Kwun Tong district. Because we were all staying in a private (as opposed to government-provided) apartment complex (named Connie Towers) which is nestled against a rather large hill, getting to the commercial part of Kwun Tong took a bit of a downhill walk...but it didn't take long for a typical market street to be revealed to me. The fresh produce of tiny open-air grocers filled the streets for anyone to browse, as did raw hanging meats, dried fish, and freshly baked/steamed/fried/boiled goods. Interestingly, though, an equal presence of new clashed with the old: cellular phone stores with technology far in advance of our own, trendy clothing shops, indoor multiplayer videogame arcades, and even modern fast-food restaurants which we commonly see in the States. Newsstands are also prevalent - you can find an abundance of varied print media on almost every street corner. Our mission wasn't related to any of these places, though - we were bee-lining for the local gaai1 si2, or "wet market", to gather lunch ingredients. Wet markets are multi-story buildings which house hundreds of stalls, each one containing a different owner who sells fresh food. Butchers, fishmongers, and fruit/vegetable providers dominate the available merchants - very rarely do you ever find any prepared food, only that which you will use to make your own meals. Though these markets are literally everywhere, not all Hong Kong people choose to use them - in fact, it is likely close to a fifty-fifty split. On the one hand, prices are cheap and fresh food is plentiful, but the smell isn't pleasant, they are vastly overcrowded, and the level of cleanliness is less than what some would desire. I, however, wouldn't hesitate to use them should I return to Hong Kong - particularly for fruits and vegetables. If my street Cantonese had been better, I'm sure it would've been loads of fun to bargain with the merchants and browse the endless array of unknown edibles. (I should note that the concept of a wet market is not entirely foreign to me, though, because Carson and I explored a similar structure in M�rida, Venezuela.)

Once all of the necessary items were bought, we all returned home for a massive lunch (which was shocking at first, but I'd soon learn that it wasn't much more than what Katherine's mother would cook for an average meal)...

    Meal Marker: Lunch
    Fresh boiled shrimp (purchased while still living).
    Vietnamese salad with vermicelli, deep sea shrimp, squid, lettuce, fried shallots, onions, and a lime dressing.
    Winter melon gang1 (thick soup - egg drop is a gang1) with fresh chicken stock, pork, shrimp, egg, and dried scallops.
    Saut�ed tofu with mushrooms and tomatoes.
    Lo Yat, an Indonesian fruit salad with jicama, pineapple, cucumber, and a peanut dressing.
    Fresh chicken (slaughtered that morning) with ginger.

It is a customary to prepare a large meal after a long journey, and this was mine! After eating, Katherine and I rested a while, and then set out for a little shopping in Causeway Bay, a popular area which exists on the north side of Hong Kong Island. Because of the fantastic mass transit systems, we had many traveling options, but decided that I needed to get my first experience with the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) - Hong Kong's subway system. Contrary to some subway systems, the MTR is really a joy to use. They are clean, cool, and not all that crowded compared to my expectations. Banks and shops always exist at every station and many MTR outlets are built below large shopping malls, a shop-a-holic's dream transit! Before boarding at Kwun Tong, I, the only non-Chinese in sight, was approached by a elderly woman who proceeded to ask me, in Cantonese, for directions. Of all the people there (and, let me assure you, there were plenty), she chose me...yet I am the only one who looks like I have no idea where I am! Amusing. After Katherine sorted the situation out, we had a good laugh and hopped into an MTR car.

Causeway Bay. A place which I would eventually visit many times, but this time we didn't stay very long. We just darted around some of the clothing shops, which provide quality, name-brand clothes at unbelievable prices ($10 USD for a pair of casual dress slacks, $1.50 for a solid-color cotton t-shirt) and took in a few of the sights. The primary purpose of the trip, actually, was for Katherine to get a haircut, so we made our way over to her salon. While she was getting styled, I waited downstairs in an Oliver's sandwich shop (very common throughout Hong Kong) and sipped freshly-squeezed guava juice. Strangely, this Oliver's was particularly fond of "Air Supply" (yes - that "Air Supply" - one of my favorite '80s music duos), so I actually listened to forty-five minutes of vocal honey from Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell...only interrupted when Katherine came to pick me up, draped in her lovely new hair style. On our way home, we quickly stopped in a computer market (similar to the wet market buildings I described above, but the stalls are packed with computer parts/peripherals) and a pirate-friendly VCD/DVD shop. Surprisingly, this is the only day that I found any pirated material in Hong Kong! It still has the piracy reputation, but the government has really worked a miracle in drastically minimizing the presence of bootlegged products. (Perhaps, though, I was just fortunate in going to the right places to find legitimate stores.)

As soon as we set foot in the apartment, jet-lag finally consumed me and I collapsed on the bed. Thankfully, I would sleep about thirteen hours and my recovery would rapidly follow.

    Language Note
    The terms "auntie" and "uncle" are commonly used in Hong Kong to signify an older friend of the family (perhaps twenty or more years older than the person who is using the term). They are also two of the many English words which appear within the dominant language, Cantonese. (This phenomenon will be further discussed in a future Hong Kong Tidbit.)


Monday, 31-May-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
A Day of Recovery: Thursday, June 3rd, 2004

The KCR!
The LTR!
A red-top minibus!
View all 15 photos...
    Hong Kong Tidbit: Transportation
    Public transportation in Hong Kong is easily amongst the best in the world (if not the best). Land, air, and sea are all covered to the fullest practical extent, each method is easy to use, and information is always presented in a multilingual fashion (usually through Chinese and English). Let's take a brief look at each of the available ways to get around...

    Mass Transit Railway (MTR): Originally opened in 1979 with limited range, the MTR subway system now has six separate lines and fifty stations serving Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, and parts of the New Territories. It is consistent, inexpensive, and convenient, but can be slower than other more direct means of transportation.

    Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR): This subway system has two lines, east and west, which connect the south of Kowloon all the way through parts of China. For Kowloon residents, it is a convenient way to journey north into the New Territories - for residents of China (who may commute to Hong Kong for work), it is equally convenient to travel south.

    Light Rail (LRT): A subway system with a series of 68 stations whose primary function is to serve the northwest New Territories. Passengers can connect with the western KCR in order to travel greater distances.

    Buses: Five companies operate double-decker bus franchises which patrol all of the major streets in Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, and parts of the New Territories. These buses are great for scenic touring as well as rapid street transport.

    Public Light Buses (more commonly known as 'minibuses'): Without question, the transportation system that I utilized the most. Minibuses seat sixteen people (as restricted by law), serve both widely accessible roads and smaller backstreets, and are very cheap. They are also known for their pedal-to-the-metal practices and, therefore, can be the fastest and most convenient form of transportation. Of course, because of the purpose-driven operators, they can also be a bit hair-raising as they slash through high-paced traffic! Interestingly, the minibus system is split into two factions: red-top buses and green-top buses. Green-tops are owned and operated by private companies, have regular stops and routes, and their drivers are wage-paid which makes them less need-for-speedy. Red-tops, on the other hand, are privately owned and operated by their drivers, so they can go wherever they want, whenever they want, and are more keen to get you places faster (because faster turnover equates to more money).

    Taxis: As you might imagine, taxis are everywhere - but they are also the most expensive form of ground transportation in Hong Kong. Most fares have a base-rate of $2.00 USD no matter where you are going, but a third of that is all that is usually needed to get you to most commonly-trodden places. Taxis are also split by function: red travel the urban areas, green travel the New Territories, and blue are confined to Lantau Island.

    Streetcars (The "Ding-Ding"): Streetcars have been in operation since 1904 and now 163 of them (all of which are double-decker) serve the northern coast of Hong Kong Island. They aren't particularly fast, nor are they air-conditioned, but they are cheap and can be quite convenient for lunch-break or scenic travel.

    Peak Tramway: This streetcar runs a very steep route from Central straight to Victoria Peak and has three stops along the way. It is really aimed at tourists (who can be pushed to the Peak in seven minutes), but a handful of locals use it for commuting as well.

    Central Midlevels Escalator: This is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. It is 800 meters long, the vertical climb is 135 meters, and total travel time is 20 minutes. Due to the vertical climb, the same distance is equivalent to several miles of zig-zagging roads, so this can be a very effective commuter option (especially considering that there is no charge to use it). Additionally, many restaurants and shops (including grocery stores) line the margins of the escalator pathway, so you can always take a break for refreshment.

    Ferries: Twenty-seven ferry services exist and can shuffle passengers between almost every island and coastline within Hong Kong...not to mention every place within a reasonable distance from Hong Kong (including Macau and various parts of China).

    Heliports: Other than within the borders of Hong Kong International Airport, public helicopter access exists on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and two of the smaller inhabited islands (Cheung Chau and Ping Chau). There are about sixteen helicopter round-trips each day between Macau and Hong Kong Island and the flights take approximately twenty minutes in an eight-seat aircraft.

    Airport: Hong Kong International Airport is a major hub for Southeast Asian travel and is one of the most technologically advanced airports in the world. It is connected to the north side of Lantau Island and, intriguingly, it was built on an artificial island crafted by many tons of landfill.

    Airport Express: A train service, provided by MTR, between Hong Kong International Airport and the Central district of Hong Kong Island. The complete journey takes twenty three minutes and outbound passengers may check their luggage at the MTR station instead of lugging it to the airport.

    And no conversation abut Hong Kong transportation would be complete without a look at the Octopus card! It is a rechargeable smart-card which facilitates electronic payment to nearly all Hong Kong transportation systems, convenience stores (7-Eleven), restaurants (McDonald's, Starbucks), parking garages, movie theaters, etc. Because Octopus cards are contactless, they can be read through common materials such as cotton or leather, so don't be surprised to see people waving their wallets, handbags, backpacks, or jackets across the yellow and orange Octopus readers. Totally sweet!

It is good that today's Tidbit was so long, because the remainder of the entry won't be! I spent the entire day at home resting and trying to recover from jet-lag. Also, on the previous day, I was a bit overwhelmed by the droves of people which pour through the streets, so I thought I'd take a break to allow for a bit of adjustment. Katherine's father had been having some slow-computer troubles for some time and he also wanted to learn how to transfer his older audio cassette tapes to a digital (WMA or MP3) form. This day gave me the opportunity to help him with both before we sat down for lunch...
    Meal Marker: Lunch
    Asparagus and lily bulb stir-fry with omelet, care of Katherine.

After lunch, Katherine's brother, Tsing Wa, stopped by to meet me. Due to the nature of Cantonese tones, his name sounds similar to the equivalent of "frog", so everyone just calls him "frog" instead of his actual name. I did the same upon meeting him and got a nice, shocked, reaction - he apparently didn't realize that I speak a bit of Cantonese! Froggy stayed awhile to chat and, during that time, Katherine's mother returned from a trip to the New Territories. She had been to Yuen Long, home of a bakery which is famous for their "wife cake" (a round pastry filled with sweet winter melon paste), so she brought me back a fresh box! Yum! Soon, we all sat down to dinner...
    Meal Marker: Dinner
    Baby bok choi.
    Fresh chicken feet (more commonly called "phoenix claws") prepared in the Cantonese style.
    Fish diaphragm soup.
    Fried pork chops.
    Indonesian style green beans.
    Fried fish.
    Fruit (lychee, etc).
    Leftover wife cake.

After clean-up and a bit of Hong Kong television, I was ready for bed! A rather slow day, but one that I needed in order to get my body back on track.


Sunday, 30-May-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Tiananmen: Friday, June 4th, 2004

Tanks tread toward Tiananmen Square on June 4th, 1989.
Tranportation map: to Mong Kog, Tsim Sha Tui, and Causeway Bay
I'm in Mong Kok on Women's Street!
View all 23 photos...
    Hong Kong Tidbit: Tiananmen Massacre
    This Tidbit isn't actually related to Hong Kong - at least not directly - but it is related to this entry. Fifteen years ago to the day, heavily-armed troops from the People's Liberation Army of China (the national armed force) stormed into Beijing's Tdiananmen Square (literally translated, the "door of heaven") and mercilessly slaughtered untold numbers of peacefully protesting residents (mostly students). Why are the numbers untold? The Central Chinese Government quickly cleaned up the mess and suppressed the death toll report, though it is estimated to be around seven thousand. Each year thereafter, Hong Kong has held a June 4th vigil on the grounds of Victoria Park in remembrance...and in an effort to spark change within the Chinese and Hong Kong governments, which have been closely tied since 1997.

This morning I was finally back to a normal wake-up time - roughly 8:00 AM. When I stepped out of the bedroom, breakfast was already waiting...
    Meal Marker: Breakfast
    Congee with ginger, peppered pork, lettuce, cilantro, and fried shallots.
    Sweet rice balls filled with black sesame paste and dunked in ginger syrup.

For those not familiar with congee: It is a magnificent, yet very simple, comfort food which is made from the long, slow simmering of rice in water. The closest approximations we have in the United States are cream of wheat and oatmeal, but the texture of congee is somewhere between those two. Plain congee is actually my favorite, but you can mix it with almost anything. As for the sweet rice balls, they are made from a dough that consists mainly of glutinous rice flour, much like Japanese mochi.

After breakfast, we went just around the corner from Connie Towers and visited Lok Wah estate, the government housing complex where Katherine grew up. Katherine's parents still keep this apartment for storage use and more convenient laundry facilities, not to mention the memories left within. After the tour, Katherine and I parted from her parents and went to Mong Kok - the best place to buy DVDs in Hong Kong! Utopia! Katherine showed extreme patience as we spent hours walking around just for me to price-check. In the end, I discovered that most stores in Mong Kok had about the same prices (between $2 and $9 USD for old and new DVDs, respectively), but decided to wait to buy. A discretionary trait which I would lose about a week later. I also was able to peruse the famous "Women's Street" where hundreds of hawker-like merchants pack both sides of the road primarily with inexpensive clothing and accessories. (Don't let the name deceive you, though - men and women of all ages can find interesting bargains on Women's Street. I, however, did not. ) Once our stomachs began calling, we stopped at a "small car noodle" shop, with very local cuisine, that Froggy recommended...
    Meal Marker: Lunch
    Thin wheat noodles served in a broth with tung1 choi3 (water spinach), gau2 choi3 (umm...veggie with no English translation), beef brisket, peppered pork meatballs, fish meatballs, pig skin, and pig blood.
    Schweppes Cream Soda!
    Fresh mango ice cream made in a wok.
    A drink made from milk, mango, pummelo (like a large, less-tart grapefruit), and honey-sweetened jelly.

Now, you may be wondering about "pig skin". Think "fried pork rinds", except not fried. A bit fatty. Probably, though, you are wondering even more about "pig blood". No, it isn't in liquid form, it is congealed into a texture that is similar to that of tofu...and it doesn't actually have much taste.

Following lunch, we hopped back on the MTR and went to Tsim Sha Tsui, the most tourist-heavy district in Hong Kong. I was only there for a few minutes, though, as we didn't have time to do anything but check the DVD prices in one HMV shop (a movies and music retail chain - they were much more expensive). We were in a bit of a rush because, in a matter of minutes, we needed to arrive in Causeway Bay in order to meet with about eight of Katherine's old University of Hong Kong friends for dinner...
    Meal Marker: Dinner
    Pan-fried pork dumplings.
    Baby bok choi.
    Lightly fried scrambled eggs.
    Sweet puffed rice drink.

Once satisfied, we zipped out of the restaurant (remembering to pay, of course ) and legged it to Victoria Park for the vigil. To my amazement, so did 80,000 other people! It was a breathtaking display of unity for Hong Kong people, who are generally thought to be apathetic. On this night, they proved the contrary and sent a message to the Central government. We each lit a candle and held it aloft for much of the two-hour ceremony...quite moving. Interestingly, because I was one of the very few non-Chinese in attendance, many photographers and video crews came by to capture my image. I wonder if I made any of the papers. For the most part, the ceremony was well organized and executed, but there was one dark moment when a collection of Hong Kong teens (about ten, I think) put on a rock-opera-style musical to decree that the youth of Hong Kong cared about the events of 1989. Excellent sentiment, but the performances were just horrendous...I shall say no more out of respect for the event. Next year, I'm willing to bet they won't recall that particular act.

After the conclusion of the event, we strolled out of Victoria Park (again, with 80,000 people), and made our way back home for a bit of needed sleep.


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