Hong Kong

What can I say? After a really difficult Spring, we needed a break, so we went to Hong Kong. Golly! Doesn’t that sound really jet-setting and extravagant? Well, when we lived in California, we regularly went to Chicago, Minneapolis, and Washington DC for business and family trips and nobody thought a thing of it. Hong Kong is about a 5-hour flight from Bangalore. When people living here want to get away, they often go to Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia or other Far-East destinations. Tom has always loved HK, so we decided to go there.

We stayed at the lovely Ritz-Carlton on the Hong Kong side of the harbor. Here is a night view of Kowloon from our hotel room.

Lots of the fun shopping is on Kowloon. We went there almost everyday on the ferry. It takes about 10 minutes to get across the water. I really liked the ferry. I could ride it all day.

Here’s a sailor securing the ferry to the dock.

This isn’t the ferry, but a nice boat we liked to watch.

What is there to do in Hong Kong?
Well, you could go shopping. Hong Kong is just a really a big mall. The entire city has shopping on all levels; tiny little one-room shops, giant department stores, huge shopping complexes, mind-boggling arrays of alleys and tents and you name it! We were walking around the streets looking at ground level shops one day. I wondered aloud “Where the heck is everybody.” It was a hot humid day and we were wiped out.

Tom said “Don’t know, let’s go in here (big door) and get out of the heat.” So we did. Wave after wave of freezing air-conditioning blasted us and wave after wave of shop-til-you-drop Chinese rushed by. Well, now we know where the people are. We jumped right in and shopped too. Of course, we couldn’t buy a lot of stuff we liked ‘cuz it wouldn’t fit on the plane. HOWEVER, we did manage a few things.
Aren’t the Pandas cute?

We decided to buy two bread-makers at Wing-On department store. Those babies are heavy! We got one for us and one for Saam. Heating up the oven to make nice bread on those hot Bangalore days makes us sad. Here I am, using them as a foot rest. You can’t buy a bread machine in Bangalore. I looked and looked. They have almost everything else. The eating culture of India is more rice and stove-top flat bread than baked goods, at least for the home kitchen. A great many homes don’t have ovens, just a cook top.

To take the bread machines home, we had the hotel re-package them to fit in one box. Of course, when we went through Customs in Bangalore, we had to open the box. Now, Customs agents the world over are a suspicious and unfriendly lot. In India, they are also…hmmm…how to put this politely, I can’t—they’re also dishonest and like to be bribed. The agent we had was nice and quite friendly, but he didn’t know what the heck we had. He didn’t know what a bread baking machine was, why did we have it? It must be expensive and valuable for commerce? We had TWO of them. It must be for business. Where is the receipt? (Packed) So he opens the user manual and it’s in Chinese!!!!!! Now he is really confused.

I was standing with all the rest of the bags while Tom tried to explain to the guy what a BM was. Finally, I yelled over: “It’s a toaster, a special toaster!” Well, that he knew. Expensive? Oh no. Price in rupees? We have no clue. Price in US dollars? We have no clue about that either, but Tom lowballs 40 bucks each. Oh, well then, we must pay Rs 3000 (about $80) in duty. Shoot. That is a lot of duty. Tom looks in his wallet and tells the guy “I only have Rs900.” “Fine. That’s enough.” Tom gives him 900 rupees and the guy puts it in his pocket. Did we get a receipt? What do you think?

We also went to the Jade Market, a wild 
fest-o-rama of schlock, expensive jewelry, touristy stuff, and medium-priced costume jewelry. I would love to have an exquisite jade necklace, but don’t know enough (like, zip) about it to dare buying anything in a cut-throat market. So, I settled for some of the nice costume jewelry made from jadeite or maybe it was jade. Anyway, I like my finds a lot.

These people own one of the less-expensive jewelry stalls at the jade market. We had a lot of fun talking to them and admiring their goods.

I also bought a set of Good Luck Brothers because they look so much like one of our good friends. Every time I look at these statues, I smile. Tom won’t let me say who the friend is. Anyhow, these little guys are great and so is the person they resemble!

If you go to France or California, you might spend some time at a wine-tasting room. In China, a tea tasting room is a must visit. The Star Ferry Store has a fine array of teas and charming tea ladies who serve you tea in the traditional way and explain the system to you. We bought lots of tea, teapots, and teacups from our tea lady.

Hong Kong is famous for its good deals on photography equipment. One of us went wild and bought three lenses, a tripod, a camera case, and a bunch of other stuff. Who was that lavish spender?

What did you have to eat?

Hong Kong is famous for its food. You can find any cuisine at any price. We had Italian and American in addition to lots of Chinese. All I can say is yum. This is how we choose lunch restaurants: Tom poked his head into places and picked the busiest ones with the most Chinese. He wouldn’t have needed to worry about tourists though; since it wasn’t high season, we were almost the only non-Chinese there. Here I am eating noodles with chopsticks.
I watched the other people to see how to do it. We all just shoved noodles in and slurped, and chopped off the long bits with our teeth. Not neat, but efficient. Tom got to try this several days later, but I don’t have a picture of that.

Anyone who’s been with me at a Chinese restaurant knows I love hot and spicy food. I got my heart’s desire in a Hong Kong Noodle house. That red stuff is hot chili! The menu was all in Chinese except for this dish, labeled “Cold Chicken”. Our waiter spoke English very well, and kept trying to tell me how hot the dish was. Finally, I said “Bring it to me the normal way. Can’t you see I’m Chinese? Look at my red hair, just like a Chinese!” So he laughed and brought it the normal way. It was great. My lips were numb for an hour.
Another great moment in Mona Food Experience was the cappuccino they serve at the Ritz. Eat your hearts out. I had it every day. The little rock candy stir stick… ohhhh yummy.

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