The final week of my Hong Kong food diary. It’s safe to say that I gained a few pounds, as I would continue eating even after full. The weight is mostly in my face (good) and midsection (bad). Yes, my cheeks have filled out, but now I have a muffin top. It was totally worth it though, as I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to eat many of these dishes again.
The Kwun Yam Shrine is a Buddhist shrine off Repulse Bay (named so after the British fleet repulsed pirates based there who would terrorize Chinese merchants). Unlike other Buddhist shrines, this one wasn’t off-limits to photography. It was quite interesting, as there are so many different and colourful statues, large and small.
Each statue represents a different figure in Chinese mythology, and it’s said that if you perform a certain action to a statue, something positive will happen. For example, there was the statue of a fish god there, and if you throw a coin into it’s mouth, it’s said you’ll have good fortune. There’s also the Longevity Bridge; a plaque proclaims that every time you cross the bridge, you’ll have three days added to your life. The two biggest statues at the entrance — Guan Yin and Tin Hau — were worshiped as goddesses of the mercy and the sea, particularly important if you’re a fisherman.
At one point, I came to a statue of a rock with writing engraved on it, and red ribbons around the base. My dad said, “Jeff, you need to take a lot of ribbons and tie it around the rock”. “Why?” “Because this is the god of marriage. This way you’ll meet a lot of girls.” Funny, dad.
My grandma’s apartment is in Kowloon City, a very old area of Kowloon, characterized by dirty buildings and slummy areas. There’s so much character here. It seems like every shop has a story, and every street a history. My dad told me that since it’s so hard to find parking, some restaurants have a valet park your car for you if you go in.
Since it’s a long-established area, there’s pretty much everything you need within a couple blocks, or a few minutes walk. This includes:
- fruit stands
- car dealership
- restaurants of many ethnicities
- Chinese medicine shops
- snack and pastry shops
- a toy shop
- a modern shopping mall
- a famous park
- a shopping mall
- electronics and appliance stores
- magazine stands
- grocery stores
- scrap metal stores
- coffin shop
- tire shop
One of Hong Kong’s famous real estate agents said that living in such high density is a habit, and that Hong Kongers could expand outward (instead of upward) if they wanted to. I can understand why this is true, because everything is so close and convenient. When you live in the middle of all this, you really feel like you’re part of the city’s pulse.
Everyone carries an Octopus card in Hong Kong, because it’s used everywhere. When you take the bus, you pay the fare by tapping your wallet (with Octopus card in it) on the scanner; the fare may change depending on whether you take it before or after crossing the harbour. Subway fares aren’t flat-rate either, so shorter routes are cheaper. The distance you travel is tracked by scanning your card when you get on and again when you get off, and the appropriate amount is deducted.
Even vending machines, parking meters, convenience stores, and restaurants have Octopus scanners used to pay for their services. It’s also used as an identity system, where students sign-in to class by tapping their cards on door scanners, or residents enter their apartment buildings without needing a key.
The Chinese name for the card is “eight arrived pass”, because eight has special meaning in Chinese, especially when it comes to directions. The English name comes from an octopus having eight tentacles, and the logo is an infinity symbol that’s also in the shape of an eight. So clever.
(This is a 360° panorama that pops up in a new window. Be warned: it’s big.)
The best place to see Hong Kong’s skyline is at Victoria Harbour. Along the walkway is the Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as well as a bus terminal, and the docking area for the Star Ferry.
The world’s largest permanent light show is here, running every night at 8:00, where many buildings across the water time their lights to music. I recorded it, but my footage didn’t turn out so well with the fog. So here’s someone else’s awesome recording, that does the show justice.