Island Hopping

Dates: 1/12/12   –   1/18/12

Location: 香港   –   九龍   –   爛頭

Hong Kong is itself an island, but the things to see are spread across the 九龍 [Kowloon] Peninsula and the neighboring island of  爛頭 [Lantau]. The main way to get between these islands is by ferry, hence the title of this post. But yeah, this post is basically an overview gallery of all that Hong Kong has to offer tourist-wise.

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Street Markets: Everything you never knew you needed

Hong Kong, Kowloon especially, has a wide range of markets selling a lot of the same things for rock bottom prices. I can get T-shirts for US$3 and any manner of souvenir for $5 or less. That’s where I get caught, though. I like to buy things not because I need them but because they’re just so cheap. It’s a common enough illness. I managed to restrain myself a little while walking through the Fa Yuen street market, the Flower Market, the Ladies Market [A market that is neither strictly for ladies, nor deals in ladies], Temple Street, and the Jade Market. Here, haggling is king and knowing when to walk away [in order for them to yell out a ridiculously low price to keep you from walking away] is key.

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Temples: Not your おばあちゃん’s お寺

I know I’ve said this before, but after traveling in Japan and Korea, you tend to get “templed out.” Visiting shrine after shrine, they all start to look the same. However, Chinese temples, drawing not only from Buddhist but Taoist and other faiths, set themselves apart from their tamer relatives on the Korean peninsula and the Japanese islands. Red is the main color of all of these temples, from the hanging paper to the candles burnt in offering. There are central images, of course, but what’s more interesting is the cast of demi-god type things that line the sides of the temple. It’s like a Sinitic family of saints. There’s lots more bowing while people light incense and the temples here seem to favor the conical spiral-incense that sends your prayers up for a week after you light it.

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Victoria Peak: On top of the world [lookin’ down on creation]

One takes a tram up the steep mountain up to Victoria Peak where you can shop in the mall that people constructed and then subsequently eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and pose with real-looking people [and fake-looking real people] at Madame Tussaud’s. Bruce Lee is really short, btw. People capitalized on the great views of the city and used it as an excuse to charge exorbitant prices for food and other goods. By day, you can look at the verdant hill-sides on the opposite side of Hong Kong Island by Aberdeen. By night, the harbor comes alive with lights and the Peak comes alive with dSLR-toting cameramen and women who take a picture of you with the city in the background then charge you money for it. Julia joked around that that would be me in 10 years. I weeped silently inside because that might be true. AHOO ;_;

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The Tian Tan Buddha: Big Buddha Big Buddha Big Buddha

You can take a ferry to Lantau Island and then a really scary bus-ride through the savage countryside on that island in order to reach the mountain-top Ngong Ping Village theme-park. It’s basically fake China in real China. It’s crowning jewel is its bronze Buddha which is one of the largest outdoor Buddha’s in the world. You’d think that something that big and… bronze would be ancient. Truth of the matter is that I am actually older than Big Buddha. Quit actin’ so hot, Big Buddha. You can’t even legally drink yet. Psh. The disappointment of fake China village was partly made up for by the fact that so many stray puppies were strewn about the grounds. They were too cute for life. And all of them were wet and かわいそう because it had been raining.

Also, we were pretty high up so the clouds rolled in over the mountains and it was straight out of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. I’ll give you points for location, fake China. But negative points for the fact that this entire place was designed as a tourist attraction. The fact that nobody was even there worshiping took away from the authenticity.

Also, no fun. Buddha says so.

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Avenue of the Stars: For the obscure Cantonese film buff inside everyone

The Avenue of the Stars is basically the Hong Kong equivalent of that one place in L.A. where they have those hand prints in cement except everyone memorialized here is famous in Chinese popular culture and basically unheard of anywhere in the West. [Sad, but largely true] Julia and I went there more for the sweeping vistas of the harbor. We had bought bubble tea and were sitting on a bench, sharing an umbrella in the light rain and it had the potential to be really romantic. Y’know, if Julia and I were dating. Bahahaha. Julia’s future S.O will have a tough time topping night-time strolls by the water while sipping bubble tea and watching the harbor lights shine in the distance. I think we both thought it would have been nice if we had bfs to share the moment with [idk who Julia had in mind, but I was thinkin’ JKras, myself], but we were biffs enough to enjoy it just the same.

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