A touch down onto dull tarmac with a laden grey sky above, we felt a chill for the first time in months as Hong Kong’s climate hadn’t warmed up.
Dropping from 30 degree heat down to below 15 degrees isn’t easy especially when the bags were full of summer gear. Eyes darted and mouths gaped, as we took in the mammoth skyscrapers, crammed on top of one another from the taxi window. Huge tankers deposited and loaded containers in the massive port. Dirty big cranes worked industrially moving about the masses of stacked metal in this thriving harbour side. The city was every bit as congested as expected. From the fly-over they peered down tight streets where countless unlit signs anchored onto the concrete towers and life scurried the paths of the mega anthill.
Upon arrival the reception informed us that we had been upgraded to an executive room because the room colour that had been requested and confirmed was unavailable!
It was amazing to hear that Cosmo offered not only client choice of colour from acridine-orange, modo-green and pastel yellow, but also whether one wanted a massage shower or relaxing bathtub. This slipped us in very nicely.
Superstition gripped the culture here. Not only is it No’13, but also as we made our way to floor 27 we noticed the elevator keypads were missing, No, 4, 14, and 24. This must be a testament to bad luck or bad feng Shui.
Situated to the rear of Wan Chi, Cosmo was a dwarf compared to some of the super structures shore side, but we didn’t care as they surveyed their kingdom from the funky room. Fresh white linen, snappy decor’, flat screen television, slim line PC, and a designer bathroom, made us feel like king and queen of the castle. It was a delight to have to pick for faults!
Daylight clung on in the early evening grey. We had wrapped up a bit but had underestimated the dropping temperatures. The ‘Star Ferry’, gave great views of both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon as it crossed Victoria Harbour.
We alternated in hanging out the open sides of this trusty chugger, one of a few. A simple metal framework filled with wooden bench seats on 2 tiers gave commuters and tourists alike cheap and convenient transport from one side to the other. The fact that enough distance was achieved on board to allow cameras the perfect skyline photo awarded the ferry its ‘star attraction’ status.
Nathan Road was lighting up as we arrived on Kowloon. Neon flashed and bright red Chinese characters blazed as signs stuck out in, around and above the crowds. The shopping wasn’t to our taste with the malls being a tad sterile causing a bit of a yawn, but there was more than shops to uncover in this town. We did the walk under the high rise noses, contrasting the dimly lit side streets and allies.
Swarming people bustled around while sad, sea creatures stared out from their cramped death row fish tank cells that fronted the many seafood restaurants. These were menu windows’ of a different kind so one can choose their barely living dinner before entering.
The icy cold in the air goose bumped us as we shivered in to the Temple Street market. The packed stalls snaked through the narrow lane merchandising the usual truck loads of junk, fake bling, crockery, tacky plastic toys and on. We had no desire for these goods, as we peeped down side allies and checked door fronts on the hunt for mystics. At the top of the road with no hidden signs the mystery and intrigue evaporated in a line of 30 ‘visionaries’ competing in the open for custom. Notice boards indicating 50 dollars for a reading were clear-cut at every table. Some had makeshift cubicles adorned with plastic sheeting or a sweep of cloth. For most, bright lights left no shadows. Only a few had darkened bulbs with purple shrouds in their symbolist kiosks. Business was brisk as readers bent over tarot cards or the palms of curious customers.
Miko was confused which one to try if any. She didn’t agree with a setting of a price for readings and surely had never charged herself, believing this to be unlucky. It all seemed to be a show put on for the tourists and locals who consulted a clairvoyant every time they needed advice, which could be as much as everyday for the extreme. Some sure looked and played the part laying it on thick with velvet table cloths, head scarf’s, shawls, eerily dim lamps and the display of insightful looks. Miko took the plunge and chose one of these, gypsy looking crystal gazers hoping for a small peek into the future. We huddled together in the chill waiting for what seemed like an age for the woman to be finished with a local Chinese girl who was intent in getting her 50 dollars worth. Finally Miko sat facing the fortune-teller, looking her in the eye to decipher if she could see honesty in the woman’s face. Knox sat by her side listening and observing.
“Do you have a crystal ball?” Miko asked.
“No ball, palm or cards”, she answered.
“I’ll have the tarot cards”, Miko requested.
The woman shuffled the cards.
“Touch the cards”, she asked closing her eyes.
Cutting them she spoke in her heavy Chinese accent.
“Choose 6 cards, lay them out face down”.
Miko carefully made her choice before the woman flipped the cards over.
“These first 2 are for past, the next for now, and these for future. Now what would you like to ask?” the woman enquired.
Knox felt the twang as Miko’s eyes narrowed.
“You’re the fortune teller, you tell me” Miko smiled. It was time to see how good she was.
Nothing was going to be given away and Miko wasn’t going to let this ‘clairvoyant’ off the hook. Like a guard dog she sat and waited. It didn’t take long for the growl to gurgle from the throat and teeth to bare as the old lady waded in bullshit.
“Your mother, father at home, they like you”, came the words sprouting from this charlatan’s mouth, which made Miko furious.
This was the 9th anniversary of Miko’s Mums passing, and her so-called father hadn’t been present throughout her life.
“No, that is wrong!” Miko cut her off.
“Your mother, father home, like you very much”, repeated the hag, nodding with an idiotic smile.
“You driver”, she went on ignoring Miko’s tension and trying to grab at things she might hit on.
“You drive a lot”, she continued to the license-less.
Knox could almost hear the tearing flesh as a jugular got ripped out. Miko shook her head and rolled her eyes.
“You are very wrong!”
It was raw for her this day as she couldn’t contain her irritation. The whole shambles took less than 5 minutes. She refused to pay 50 dollars. In fact she felt this fraud didn’t deserve one penny, messing with people’s heads like that with her lies.
This kind of thing gives ‘real psychic’s a bad name. Knox gave her 20 dollars to shut the complaining woman up. Miko felt silly for even bothering with these kinds of people who were simply here for entertainment and didn’t have a clue or didn’t care what a dangerous game they were playing.
The beautiful harbour was fantastically a glow in the dark night as we caught the ferry home. As with most things in this city their small water bus trimmed with its streamers of orange lights were contrasted vastly in size against the fabulous QE2 ocean liner docked quayside. A vision of flashing neon and office illumination set a kaleidoscopic view as the various heights and shops reflected blues and pinks in the sooty water. Like a million fireflies captured in the sky, the trigger-happy camera’s caught the electrifying scene, another legion of picture postcard images to entice new visitors.
It was easy to feel crowed in, in this haphazard enclave. We jumped on the MTR to escape the skyscrapers and feel some spirituality. Wasn’t it ironic that when we wrapped up warmer the sun came out as they travelled over to Lantu Island, in the search for the world’s tallest, outdoor, sitting Buddha.
All around, the slopes were shrouded in a hazy mist as the island bus climbed the steep hillside round its dangerous curves. The sun broke through the trees and bushes that packed every available inch of space with golden rays. With this encouragement a multitude of green shade stood out. Like its people the flora of Hong Kong densely populated the usable land etching out a prosperous existence. The bus was full of happily busy Chinese tourists.
“Yak, yak, yak, yak!” came the constant rattle from the gaggle of mature ladies who behaved like excited school kids. Miko’s form had been in the doldrums. The time of the year touched deep wounds for her and all Knox could do was let his heart hold her tight with love. His job was to show patience and understanding. Miko eased when she felt him reach out to her and she delved deep into her own heart to find peace. It was lovely to see her smile with the realisation that life is short and one should live everyday of the beautiful gift.
The Buddha expressed a serene tranquillity from his lotus position atop a water lily leaf on his shrined hill despite the construction below. Bright orange trees and yellow potted flowers encircled what looked like a monumental carved cooking pot that took position at the base of the 265 step climb. Apart from anything, it was good exercise to join the streams of perspiring tourists ascending and descending to visit the bronzed enlightened one. A hand up to say hi, and the other opened palm on his lap, it was no wonder this statue looked chuffed as he peacefully mediated to a view of rolling forested hills drenched in the spring time sunshine. Smaller gift offering effigies of the Buddha surround the magnificent sculpture celebrating the awakened path. This is no god or idol of a god to be worshipped but rather a symbol to lead one to reflect on a deeper spiritual awareness. Whatever one believes it was a beautiful spot and the fresh air helped to clear the airways after the clogging big smoke.
Literally the real highlight of our 4-night sojourn to Hong Kong was an evening tram to the main island’s ‘Victoria Peak’. The angular maroon car had its old-fashioned colonial aura firmly planted in the 21st century. We had looked forward to this fairground ride without, Knox prayed, the high velocity descent. Miko just awaited the thrill of the scary moment. An immediate abrupt ascent had backs pushed against seats feeling the gravity of the incline and butter flies in the stomach caused by the dramatic drop stretching behind. The whole carriage buzzed while the tram continued past apartment windows. Peering out, it looked like a city of slanty, mis-shapen buildings. Getting higher the track sliced through a crop of trees giving a narrow view of some of the lit up office towers before the scene opened up. The summit gave an understanding of how high one was with these super structures far below. A fabulous array of illuminations blazed from the hundreds of giant buildings. The misty darkness was alive in a new age iconography as a stone lion viewed his enchanting kingdom from the peak vantage point. Crowds pressed to the fore of the observation platform to catch sight of the daily light show as the tinsel look brightened the picture, each building acting as a lit Christmas tree in the night.
The cold air curled around and the haze tried to obscure but only added a hint of mysticism to events. The bulbs of Hong Kong’s giants dimmed before they went into individual routines. Neon colours flashed, pulsed, winked and whirled their dance across the skyline. Tourist extras such as a large mall and restaurants stood as if in their own world and the fountain, acting as their centre piece, splashed its purity into the air. Sitting backwards the tram took them down, giving a jittery feeling inside, as we trusted the driver to keep control and return them to sea level safely. We beamed, with an elevated feeling.
Since it was Saint Patrick’s night a drink or 5 was in order. God, bless the Irish as they say! Delaney’s Irish bar was in the centre of Wan Chai’s ‘nightlife area. A sway of green, black and white thronged the pavement outside with the overspill. We pushed and shoved our way in but couldn’t even see the bar never mind get near it. We made the escape but only managed to jump from the frying pan into the fire. They really wanted something to eat and had a walk in the area. Wan Chai turned out to be sleaze city.
The bars were interspersed with whorehouses and strip joints. Slappers hung on the arm of seedy old western geezers, while hookers posed on stools, fluttering eyelashes, flicking hair and shortening their mini skirts waiting for business outside ‘clubs’. The whole area was prominent for the selling going on and the leering perverts gawking at any female wondering how much they cost.
“Where the hell are we?”
We quickened our pace wanting out of there fast. We navigated to the Derby, an anglicised pub a block from their hotel, and tensions levelled out. It was calm and subdued compared to the cesspit they just left, therefore a haven to sit down, eat and have a pint of green to celebrate. It was the quietest and soberest St Paddies night we ever had!
We were glad we took the time to stop over in Hong Kong. The food wasn’t special for veggies but we coped. The sights were great to see, and we enjoyed visiting them. Getting in some quality relaxation in a chic, unobtrusive hotel was a bonus. Unlike Singapore or India though, Hong Kong didn’t hold that magic that would attract us to return. It was time to fly!