It’s hard to be in Hong Kong without making comparisons to Japan. People here also love their cell phones, but make calls incessantly. Almost everyone is talking away in public, where in Japan, everyone is always quietly texting a message to someone.
People are less shy and more aggressive here. When you ask for a discount at a local store in Japan, the sales person will apologize, and shy away, while the Chinese merchants here openly debate and cajole you into retracting your offer. I almost had fun baiting the camera salespeople here. I even managed to start bargaining in Chinese:
Salesperson: What are you looking for?
Me: A Canon lens. 17-85.
Salesperson: Ah…4800 HKD.
Me: Too much! Your competitor is offering 4190 HKD. You’ve got to at least match that.
Salesperson: (plays with calculator) Okay 4190.
Me: Then I should just go back to his store!
None of our lips matched the above lines, by the way.
We started today’s outing in Central, where we walked to the Star Ferry and used our Octopus card to take the ferry across the harbour to Kowloon. The area of Tsim Sha Tsui is the pier and peninsula on the other side, fronted by a number of museums and backed with a road of both high end boutiques and high pressure bargain stores.
The Ferry is a key element of Hong Kong’s history and tourism. Aging ferries, not unlike the boats that steam to the Toronto Islands, used to take commuters back and forth from the Island to Kowloon. Today, a fast subway tunnel does that more efficiently and the harbour crossing is really more for tourists. But it’s nonetheless a beautiful perspective on the sea, watching ships and boats traverse these fragrant harbour waters.
As we got off the ferry, we walked by the landmark Peninsula Hotel. The surrender of the colony during World War II was signed here with the Japanese, and years later, James Bond visited in the Man with the Golden Gun. The stores along the next street, Nathan Road, alternated between some boutique labels and somewhat sleazy electronics vendors.
Along the way, peddlers very aggressively tried to hawk their fake watches, hand tailored suits and other wares directly into your face, often not taking no for an answer, which was really irritating. I stopped into a few camera shops along the way, but it was obvious most didn’t have stock or weren’t trustable to buy from. Thankfully with the Internet and friends, it’s much easier to spot a good deal from a bad one these days. Whether it’s shady camera shops in New York, Toronto or Hong Kong, there’s always someone out to make a quick buck on an unsuspecting buyer.
I met back up with Nadine at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, which featured artwork from Hong Kong and Chinese artists, mostly painters. I wasn’t a big fan of the landscape work that was so common in the galleries, but I did like the contemporary Asian art featured in one of the exhibits.
We went to the Science Museum as well, after lunch at the new TST Sogo department store. The Science Museum is similar to the Ontario Science Center. Lots of hands on stuff. Some of the exhibits were getting older but others were surprisingly up to date. Of interest was a Vivid Group Mandala Soccer VR game, which brought back a lot of memories for me, as well as a a fantastic telecommunications exhibit.
The telecom exhibit included some really nifty displays, including a real working plugboard exchange, a functioning Strowger step by step frame, various sizes of transpacific cable, a fibre optic transmission demonstration, and a neat cellular demo where kids could try and catch a moving car using various cell towers.
We returned to Causeway Bay to have dinner with my family and later went to the Yacht Club to see the Hong Kong harbourfront from a fantastic vantage point.
This morning Nadine came with me to visit the family grave site on Hong Kong Island. We took the subway to Chai Wan, at the easternmost stop on the Island line, then grabbed a taxi up to the cemetery. The cemetery is built up on the mountain, with terraced levels each holding a row of graves.
Finding the right lot on this hill of several different cemeteries was a challenge almost out of Amazing Race. However, I had a photograph of my father and mother at the grave, which I used to line up the background of bushes and railings.
After paying my respects at the family plot, we walked back down the hill, finding a monument to Canadian, British and Indian soldiers who held the Island during the onslaught of Japanese forces during World War II. There’s a Canadian History Minute video about it Canada’s contribution to defending this colony.
Nadine went to inquire about church services for Sunday, while I went back to the Mid-Levels near the elevator and bought the Canon 17-85 IS USM telephoto lens. I shot with it the rest of the day and I found I could hold stable shots at full extension at 85mm (135mm on full frame) at 1/25 sec. I like the new lens a lot.
We met with my family for dim sum, at the Hong Kong Jockey Club and later, my uncle drove us around the New Territories and Shatin, which are towards the north of Kowloon, just before China.
We had dinner in Hong Kong at a fantastic seafood restaurant where live stock was brought in from the street market out front and cooked for us immediately.