Tuesday, December 25, 2007

It shouldn't rain at Christmas in Hong Kong

And luckily it didn't. There was rain overnight, and we feared it would last the day, but once the sun had risen, the clouds stayed but the rain stopped.

We set off after breakfast to deliver a present to Jacky Chan, a friend of long standing, who teaches at a school for the mentally disabled in Mongkok. It took us longer to get away than we expected, but we met him at about 10. After an exchange of presents (another scarf for me - this time a more tasteful one than other years), and a short chat, we went our separate ways.

We walked on down to TST, through the wet markets. I haven't been to a really good outside wet market for years, and this one was like those of the old days with stalls piled with fruit and vegetables of every kind, dried fish, dried mushrooms, biscuits and cakes, butcher's shops festooned with meat and entrails, poultry shops with hens in cages awaiting the chop, clothes and haberdashery. I didn't see any baskets of frogs or small birds as we used to see at Sham Shui Po years ago, but everything else was there.

After browsing our way through the stalls, we stopped off for a quick bite of dim sum at a restaurant we'd not visited before. We had spare ribs, shao mai, chicken's feet and prawn rice rolls - all tasty and well-cooked. Eddie found it more expensive than he expected at about $9 per dish, which is a reflection of the current state of inflation.

We continued our walk past the Jade market (not open) and down Canton Rd, through the Harbour City complex to the Star Ferry, where we crossed to Wan Chai to look at the computer centre. Lots to look at and reasonably crowded with more foreigners than at the Golden Computer Centre - I think I heard a Kiwi accent in passing. We checked out several floors then continued walking to Central.

We went through the Wan Chai market - this one has been tamed and is mostly in shops rather than stalls on the roadside, and seems to have shrunk from the days it covered several streets. We couldn't find anything that suited both of us for lunch so we carried on walking down Hennessey Rd till we reached 3 Pacific Place. I thought this was where we could see Christmas decoration, though the main buildings are 1 and 2 - but we went to the first floor just in case, and discovered a group of young handbell ringers performing carols. This was well worth the stop, and we enjoyed listening to them for 15 minutes.

Continuing on to 1 and 2, we found that the decorations weren't quite as mean as Eddie thought - the theme was "White Christmas" and featured several Christmas trees and an ornate Santa House in European style.

Having enjoyed the decorations, we went through Queensway, then on to Statue Square, where there is hardly any glitter and sparkle. The main tree is skeletal - a cone with some gold strings inside, surrounded by a few angels. It's not as tall as last year's tree which was across De Voeux Rd and seemed much more impressive, if only because that one looked like a proper Christmas tree.

While we were having a rest, we were asked by a visiting couple to take their photo. Eddie got talking and found out they were from Beijing, on a day trip to Hong Kong. He is a retired shipbuilding researcher, with very good English. We helped them get on the MTR for Lo Wu, and hope they got back to Shen Zhen in time to meet the friend who was taking them on to Guangzhou by bus.

We crossed the harbour again, and bought something for tea from Wellcome in Harbour City, sitting outside the Cultural Centre to eat. We had a long wait before the performance (6-7 pm) that we wanted to see, but it was worth it. The young a capella singers were clever and entertaining, well deserving their applause, and a larger audience. (Hayden singers on Youtube 2006?).

At the end of the concert, we walked back through the crowds to the train - unfortunately many of the subways and exits were blocked off and we had a longer walk than intended to get to the station. East TST was colourful, but not as busy as we expected. I think the hawkers who used to add liveliness selling their coloured lights and santa hats have been banned. There didn't seem to be as many impromptu carol singing groups as previously, unless the night was too early for them. We were tired, and keen to get to bed, so we didn't wait round, and took the next train home .

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